Tara no nizake, traditional and flavorful: simmered fish in a very palatable and sweet dashi sauce.
Simmered, grilled and raw: these are the triad of preparation methods for fish recipes that you will often see in traditional Japanese cuisine.
Prepare a liquid seasoning, add the fish and leave it to cook, then finally serve the dish: these are the basic steps of the fish simmered servings. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t very fond of that kind of dish when I was younger. because what I had tried before usually tasted too bland. For a long time, I couldn’t understand why nizakana was so praised in traditional cooking.
Trying to figure out the mystery, when I came to Japan I decided to challenge myself and learn how to prepare a mouth-watering buri daikon. That quest is documented on a blog post, but… It didn’t solve the mystery at all, because I found out that buri daikon was all about the daikon, not the fish.
I made a few failed experiments at home with different ingredients and sauces, all of them came up with the same issues! Either the fish was too bland or overdone… or both.
Then one day, while having lunch at one place where I often visit in Ikebukuro, they served a true game changer… This place had the best nizakana I’ve ever had!
Their seasoning was strong, very, very strong.
The slip in my previous attempts was the sauce – I was using a diluted sauce with some dashi and stuff. The mistake was not about the cooking time – nor the ingredients I used for the sauce. Do never, ever, dilute the sauce. Because tara (cod) releases a bunch of water, you will get an edible sauce in the end even if you don’t add extra water while cooking everything.
For this dish, I added some grated ginger as a final touch to balance the aroma.
If you decide to use another fish than tara, I’d suggest getting one with a high-fat content – such as flounder, bream and so on. This is a good dish to use the fish’s head, so consider making it especially when you have a good whole fish in your hands.
- 2 Pieces of tara (cod fish)
- 3tbsp of sake, 3tbsp of sugar and 3tbsp of shoyu
- Thumb of ginger, grated
- 3tbsp of mirin
- 50g of boiled horenso (garnish)
- Sliced ginger (garnish)
- Place the fish on a metal rack over the sink.
- Gently pour hot water over the fish to remove the excessive smell.
- Combine all the seasonings, except for ginger and mirin.
- Set the mixture on high heat and let it boil until the alcohol evaporates.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the fish and a drop lid (otoshibuta) over the pan.
- Leave it to cook for around 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, add mirin and the grated ginger.
- Let it cook for 10 minutes or enough to fully cook the fish.
- Serve the fish with horenso and sliced ginger.
If you are using the whole fish or large pieces, make some cuts into the skin. This way the seasoning can penetrate better inside the meat.
The measurements I set for the seasonings is quite sweet. You can adjust it to your taste with more salt and less sugar.
Use salt instead of more shoyu if you want to make it saltier. Too much shoyu will overpower the flavor mix of the other ingredients.
Adding grated ginger and mirin later makes the recipe a little lighter.