Japanese Sake-Simmered Sole Recipe
Japanese cooking can have a reputation for being complex because it focuses on decoration and food's aesthetic appeal. However, this recipe makes a very quick simmered fresh fish. Any type of flatfish (be it sole, flounder, turbot, or halibut) works, provided that it is fresh. This fish is then simmered in a sweet and salty soy sauce. It should be paired with rice, and the two together make for an excellent centerpiece for a meal. The fish is succulent and nearly falls apart after a quick simmer, and you can pour the sauce over both the fish and the rice to enhance its flavor.
This recipe is adapted from Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji. It isn't often, I would think, that somebody would say that the recipe that they adopted their recipe from is probably better than their own - although I have no way of knowing that, I would hazard a guess in saying that is so.
Anyway, why make a recipe which perhaps isn't as good as the original? The problem is that the recipe advanced in the book required a variety of special ingredients such as mirrin, a type of Japanese rice wine, and dashi, which is a ubiquitous Japanese seaweed stock used throughout Japanese cuisine. Ubiquitous that is, except where I live and with its closest probable source being quite distant and in a Japanese specialty store which I don't often have the chance to visit. Thus, I had to substitute with material which would be more commonly available in typical American cuisine.
I hope that this is somewhat close to what the original objective was, and that it compares well to it, but frankly I can't help but think that I probably did lose important parts of the authentic Japanese taste of the food. But as a substitute, I consider it quite good regardless.
- 3 1/2 lb filets of fresh sole
- 3/5 cup white wine
- 3/5 cup sake
- 4/5 cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 8 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- Prepare the fish fillets as necessary. If using whole fish, scale, gut, and wash leaving heads and tails. Score the top side of the fish with 2 - 3 diagonal, not cross-scoring slits, 1/4 inch deep. If using already prepared fish fillets, no need to bother with such.
- Combine together the white wine, sake, soy sauce, chicken sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar, in a bowl. Mix well. Pour into a large casserole dish or frying pan (provided it has suitably high walls), whatever you have that is widest. Heat to a boil by high heat.
- Place the fillets into the sauce. Place a sheet of baking paper with a hole cut in the middle to allow steam to escape above. Cook for 10 minutes. Cooking quickly over high heat in such a way keeps the fish tender. Preserve the sauce in a separate bowl. Sprinkle some of it over the fish and keep the rest if any additional sauce is wanted during consumption. Serve immediately with rice, and possible sprinkle with some greens as a garnish (kinome sprigs are suggested, but these will probably not be available).
© 2018 Ryan Thomas