From left to right on the bottom row are "namerou" 鯵のなめろう, "goma-mabushi" 鯵のごままぶし, and "sunomono" 酢の物.
"Aji-no-namerou" 鯵のなめろう or "chopped aji seasoned with miso" is a very common way of preparing mackerel. I have posted a similar dish using low-quality tuna.
"Aji-no-gomamabushi" 鯵のごままぶし or "aji covered with ground roasted white sesame" was inspired by the recipe I saw on line.
"aji-no-sunomono" 鯵の酢の物 or "aji and cucumber in vinegar dressing" is also a classic dish. The addition of ginger root is also common to counter the sometimes strong flavor of the fish.
The aji was frozen and vacuum packed (#1). It was filleted with skin removed. I have to assume it was first salted and prepared in the usual manner of "San-mai oroshi" 三枚おろし(three pages preparation consisting of two fillets and a layer containing a backbone). After I removed the fillets from the package, I washed them in cold filtered water, dried them with a paper towel. I then placed the them between the sheets of paper towel on the cutting board. I sprinkled sushi vinegar so that the paper towels were saturated with the vinegar (became transparent, #2). I let it sit for 10 minutes. This technique is called "sujime" 酢じめ which is commonly done for blue skinned fish to preserve and reduce any "fishy" smell and taste. The fresher the fish the less amount of "sujime" is needed. This one was not too bad and I only vinegared it for 10 minutes. After that, I removed the center line of the fillets which contained small bones to make 20 small half fillets. I divided these into three portions (I apportioned two extra half fillets to the "namerou" since I knew this dish would be good).
- I cut the aji filets into small bite sized pieces.
- I prepared "nihaizu" 二杯酢 by mixing rice vinegar, light colored soy sauce and dashi broth (3:2:2 ratio but the ratio can be modified based on your taste).
- As an additional item, I made "jabara" 蛇腹 cut cucumber, which was first salted, let to stand for 5 minutes then excess moisture squeezed out. I dressed it with sushi vinegar (from the bottle) and set it aside until I assembled the dish. (I could have added wakame seaweed but I did not).
- I also prepared "hari-shouga" 針生姜 as a garnish. By first removing the skin from ginger root, thinly sliced, and then julienned (#5) and soaked in water (#6) to make it less strong. The longer you soak the ginger root and the more frequently you change the water the less potent the ginger becomes. You have to taste and decide when to stop. I strained the ginger using a fine nylon strainer and squeezed out the excess water using a paper towel.
- I assembled the dish in a small bowl, first putting in the cucumber (excess sushi vinegar squeezed out), then the aji. I poured the "nihaizu" around and topped with "hari-shouga" ginger (picture above).
- I cut the aji filet into a bite sized pieces and sprinkled enough soy sauce to coat all the surface and let it stand for 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, I dry roasted the white sesame seeds (about 2 tbs) until fragrant and just starting to turn color. I tipped the seeds into a Japanese mortar or suribachi すり鉢 and let it cool a bit.
- Using a pestle or surikogi すりこぎ, I ground it into coarse powder.
- I place the marinated aji in a bowl and coated the all surfaces with the sesame powder and served (picture above).
- I coarsely chopped the aji.
- I finely chopped chives (or scallion), perilla leaves, and miso (amount is arbitrary but you could taste during the preparation and add more) and mixed with the aji while chopping with the knife.
- For a change, I added a bit of mirin to make the mixture loose and added some sweetness.
- I did not add ginger since I had ginger in the other dish.
- I placed decorative perilla leaves on top as garnish and served in a small bowl (picture above).
This was a wonderful combination to have with cold sake. We like the namerou best, followed by one covered with sesame seeds. The sunomono was good but, among the three, it had the least impact. The problem is that we can consume a quite a lot of sake with dishes as good as these three.