Do you know this beautiful shiny fish?
It is ‘Sanma (さんま, 秋刀魚)’ in Japanese. I have learned it’s called ‘Pacific Saury’ in English just recently. I never had a reason to search their name before because I have never seen them in London. Oh, only once actually in Japanese food shop but it was a frozen one.
The fish swim towards Japan in a big shoal in Autumn season with lots of oil on its body for laying eggs. They apparently have a very short life for just two years or something… 😦
Lots of Sanma appear in fishmongers in Autumn. It is one of the Taste of Autumn for Japanese.
So how do we eat them?
Of course there are many ways to cook it. Some are very regional like famous ‘Sanma Sushi’. However, the way I like the most is the simplest one.
What is ‘Autumn’ for you?
Autumn in Japanese is ‘Aki‘ and written as ‘秋‘. The character is made from two parts. The left part shows what it is connected to and in this case ‘禾 (Nogi-hen)’ means the character is something to do with ‘Crop’. The right part is ‘火 (Hi)’ which means ‘Fire’. So by combining two parts together the character means ‘Drying Crop (by Fire)’. Japan has a culture of growing rice plants for many many years and we harvest it in Autumn. Traditionally we dried cut plants by hanging it in the field for weeks before threshing grains so it does make sense that Autumn is the time for ‘Drying Crop’ before a cold winter comes.
In Japan Autumn is described in several ways. We say Autumn is for Harvesting. Autumn is for Reading Books, Autumn is for Arts & Excercise. However, the most important thing about Autumn and we should never ever forget is that Autumn is for ‘Taste’ and ‘Appetite’.
The Taste of Autumn – ’Matsutake’ mushroom and ‘Kuri’ chestnuts