My Citizens, it is a source of no small embarrassment to your di-Hydrogen monoxide loving (that’s H2O, aka water) Leader – the sublime piscine chef that is TFD! – that he has been remiss in posting recipes recently for fish! This is unacceptable and I will swiftly and decisively rectify this with an easy and delicious recipe from Japan!
As a lover of spices, I also choose to showcase one of my favorites in this dish – sansho, the delicious and lip-tingling spice that is unique to Japanese cuisine!
As noted on scmp.com:
The Japanese spice sansho and the herb kinome come from the same plant, Zanthoxylum piperitum. Sansho, though, is derived from the seed pods of the plant, also known as Japanese prickly ash, while kinome refers to the leaves.
Both have a refreshing, zesty flavour and produce a tingling, tongue-numbing sensation that is reminiscent of Sichuan peppercorn – not surprising because they are from related plants.
Sansho powder is made by grinding the unripe seed husks – the hard seed inside is discarded. The fine pale green powder is used to balance the richness of fatty foods; it’s a traditional accompaniment to grilled eel and is also served with some noodle dishes. Fresh, young seed pods are used whole to season pickles. The flowers of the plant are also edible, although, because the season is so brief, these are hard to find.
Kinome is often used as a palate-refreshing garnish on chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) and various types of fish, meat and vegetable dishes. A sushi chef taught me how to release the leaf’s scent by placing it in one cupped hand then smacking it with the other cupped hand.
As further elucidated on japantimes.co.jp:
In traditional Japanese cuisine, spiciness and zing are provided through yakumi garnishes — fragrant herbs, spices and vegetables added to a dish after it’s plated. Not only do yakumi enhance the flavors and visual appeal of a dish, they’re also believed to have health benefits such as aiding digestion — even the word “yakumi” literally means “medicine flavor.” These garnishes are also used to emphasize seasonality, and the quintessential springtime yakumi is kinome, the young leaf clusters of the sanshō (Japanese pepper) tree.
The prickly-stemmed sanshō is a deciduous tree that’s found growing in the wild throughout Japan with the exception of Okinawa. There’s evidence that it has been used as food or for medicinal purposes for a long time; many earthenware pots from the Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C.) have been discovered by archaeologists to contain sanshō seeds. Cultivation of these pepper trees did not start until the beginning of the 17th century, when a variety that yielded large, fragrant berries was imported from the Korean Peninsula to a place called Asakura in current day Hyogo Prefecture.
Named the Asakura sanshō, this is still the main cultivated variety today. Large-scale sanshō tree farming was initiated during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). Incidentally, although sanshō (Zanthoxylum piperitum) is closely related to the Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum bungeanum, called kaboku-zanshō or hoa-jao in Japan), it’s a different plant.
Three parts of the sanshō tree are used in cooking: the leaves, flower buds and berries. The flower buds and the green immature berries are preserved in salt or simmered in soy sauce, sugar, mirin and other flavors (i.e. made into tsukudani), and the mature seed husks are dried and ground into a spice powder called kona-zanshō, which is essential in Japanese cooking.
The leaves, kinome, besides being used as a bright green garnish on grilled fish and meat, floated on soups and so on, are also ground up into a paste and mixed with miso to make a piquant sauce. There’s a commonly held belief that holding a kinome leaf cluster between cupped hands and clapping the hands together is the best way to bring out its fragrance, although I’ve talked to several professional chefs who have said that was not necessarily done. In any case, bruising kinome leaves does help to release their oils.
Like any herb with an assertive scent and flavor, kinome may take some getting used to. It has a citrus-like fragrance (it belongs to the citrus family, botanically speaking) and a fresh green flavor with a slight bite. If you’re new to kinome, you may want to use it sparingly to start with. Like fresh coriander, kinome can become quite addictive.
Fresh kinome is usually only available in stores in the spring, but if you want to harvest fresh leaves year round, consider getting your own sanshō tree. They grow to about 3 meters in height and are fairly easy to take care of if you just want the leaves. Harvesting berries may require a bit more care and a green thumb.
My Citizens, know that in Japan, salmon fillet is sliced differently than in the US. Japanese fillets are cut diagonally and sliced thinner (about ½ to ¾ inch thickness) compared to American or western cut. If you buy salmon as a whole fish, you can fillet it the Japanese way. It will cook faster and also absorb flavors quickly.
I call for a homemade teriyaki sauce that is a classic version of this delicious sauce and a garnish of grated daikon with a bit of chili, known as “red in snow” in Japanese that cuts the richness of the salmon. Be generous with the sansho, it is what really makes this dish! You can buy top-quality sansho here – use nothing less, Citizens! The northern island of Hokkaido is gorgeous and famous for its salmon, by the way.
Battle on – The Genralissimo