Shizuoka Local Fish: Houbo/Blue Fin Robin


Many a time, my good friend Patrick Harrington has rightly pointed out on the importance to eat “local” as much as possible. Consequently, I have endeavoured whenever possible to introduce any vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish grown, made, raised or caught in Shizuoka Prefecture (and its waters)
As for today I would like to introduce again a fairly cheap and tasty fish: houbou. Its English name is quite poetic: blue fin robin (“Chelidonichthys spinosus” for the purists). The reason is its very wide round green-blue side fins.
Some call it grotesque, others beautiful.

Most of them are found in Niigata Prefecture from Autumn to Winter (30~50 cm), but they are caught in early Spring in Suruga Bay (the Shizuoka variety is smaller, up to 20 cm). But now and thenwe find them at dfferent times of the year.

It can be prepared in many ways:

-Sashimi and sushi if just caught.

-In “nabe/鍋” (soup pot) or as “nimono/煮物” (simmered) in Japanese-style cuisine.

-Steamed and served with a sweet and sour sauce in Chinese-style food.

My preferred way is Mediterranean style (one fish per person):
Cut the side fins and scrape the scales off. discard the insides and clean under clear cold running water. Make a couple of shallow incisions over each flank.
Fill the stomach with a mixture of finely chopped vegetables and herbs (leave your imagination go free!).
Put it on a large sheet of olive oil coated cooking foil paper, sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper. Place vegetables cut in long strings on both sides (plenty is fine), and one or two thin lemon slices on top. Coat it with some (not too much) extra virgin oil. As a last touch, I add some white wine and a little anise spirit (Pernod, Ricard or Absinthe).
Loosely wrap the fish with foil paper, close both ends by twisting them around.
Place the fish in its foil paper directly on the metal plate inside the oven preheated at 180 degrees Celsius and cook for about 15 minutes (longer for large fish).
If you do not have an oven, steam it the Chinese way!

Warren Bobrow
Bread + Butter
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4 thoughts on “Shizuoka Local Fish: Houbo/Blue Fin Robin”

  1. Truly and interesting fish. Is it a fresh water fish? I can’t quite decide if I like the looks of it. The fins are beautiful but the head is a tad creepy.


  2. Yes, I’m all for local food. And the more I think about it the more compelling the argument becomes. In fact if the cost of power and transportation rises much further local food will probably be a necessity.
    BTW didn’t we have this fish as part of a sashimi platter sometime?


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