People are seeing fermented food in a new light, and "miso-zuke," or pickling food in miso, is a useful recipe once you get the hang of it. Chef Kimio Tomura, who specializes in Kyoto cuisine, introduces a dish using fish and light-colored "white miso." If butterfish is hard to come by, choose salmon, yellowtail (buri), scallop or Japanese Spanish mackerel (sawara) instead.
"It takes less time to pickle sliced fish, but chefs pickle as a fillet and cut before grilling. You get sharper edges that way," Tomura says. He recommends the chunkier "tsubu" type miso with soybean bits. Serves four.
1 fillet or 4 slices butterfish (managatsuo) or other fish
Miso bed: 1 kilogram white "tsubu" miso, 1 cup sweet mirin sake, gauze
Use slices of fish to pickle quickly; use fillets for a neater finish.
Sprinkle salt on fish. Although the amount depends on the type of salt and thickness of fish, use about 1/2 tsp for four 100-gram slices. Sprinkle half on flat container, lay fish, sprinkle rest on top. Refrigerate for about two hours, until water appears on surface.
To make miso bed, mix miso and mirin. Mixture should fall slowly when lifted with spatula.
Spread a third of the miso mixture on bottom of container. Cover with a piece of gauze. Pat fish dry and place on gauze, skin-side down.
Cover with another piece of gauze and spread the rest of the miso mixture on top. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and keep in a cool place or refrigerator for about two days, until surface turns light amber.
Take fish from miso bed, wipe surface. For a neater finish, make cuts spaced 1 to 2 mm apart on skin and skewer with metal skewer.
Heat grill to low heat. Lay fish and cover with aluminum foil. If grill has top heat, grill meat-side first and turn. They are done when center of cut end turns white. Remove foil if fish needs to brown further.
Estimated time: 2 1/2 hours for preparation, 2 days for pickling fish, 15 minutes for finishing.
Nutritional information (per serving): kilocalories, 175; sodium content, 1.9 grams; fat content, 10.9 grams
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From The Asahi Shimbun's Kashikoi Okazu column
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