Category Archives: Talk

Local fish: “Houbou”/Blue Fin Robin

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A couple days ago, my good friend Patrick Harrington rightly pointed out on the importance to eat “local” as much as possible. Consequently, I will endeavour 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 a fairly cheap and tasty fish: houbou. Its English name is quite poetic: blue fin robin (“Chelidonichthys spinosus” for the purists)
Some call it grotesque, others beautiful. It earned its name because of it darkish red colour and bluish fins.
Most of them are found in Niigata Prefecture from in Winter (30~50 cm), but they are caught in early Spring in Suruga Bay (the Shizuoka variety is smaller, up to 20 cm).

It can be prepared in many ways:

Sashimi and sushi if just caught

In “nabe” (soup pot) or as “nimono” (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. Clean the insides. Make a couple of shallow incisions over each flank.
Fill the stomach with a mixture of finely chopped vegetables and herbs (leave your imagination 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 lemoon 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).
Lossely envelop the fish with the foil paper, close both ends by twisting them around.
Place the fish in its foil paer directly on the metal plate inside an 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!

Il y a quelques jour, mon ami Patrick Harrington m’a indiqué avec justesse la nécessité de manger autant local que possible. Dans cette optique je vais essayer de présenter autant que possible la richesse de l’agriculture, la pisciculture et l’élevage à Shizuoka.

Pour commencer je voudrais parler du houbou, le grondin rouge, bon marché et très goûteux poisson. Certains disent qu’il est grotesque alors que d’autres le considèrent comme plutôt joli. Son nom anglais  “blue fin robin” vient de ses ailerons bleutés et sa couleur rouge foncé. La plupart d’entre eux se pêchent en hiver dans le département de Niigata (30~50 cm), mais à Shizuoka et dans la baie de Suruga, une plus petite espèce se pêche et elle mesure vers les 20 cm).

On peut le cuisiner de plusieurs façons : En sashimi si il est encore tout frais, dans un “nabe” (une sorte de pot-au-feu japonais), en “nimono” (mariné) à la japonaise. On le trouve aussi cuit vapeur avec une sauce aigre-douce de style chinois.

Je conseille personnellement la version méditerranéenne (1 poisson par personne) : Coupez les ailerons latéraux, et dépouillez le de ses écailles, retirez les entrailles et nettoyez. Incisez le ensuite sur les flancs.

Remplissez son ventre avec un mélanger de légumes hachés finement et d’herbes selon votre bon goût !

Mettez-le ensuite sur une large feuille d’aluminium recouverte d’huile d’olive, salez et poivrez-le. Découpez des légumes dans leur longueur et déposez-les aux côtés du poisson (ayez la main lourde si vous le voulez!), ajoutez aussi deux trois fines tranches de citron dessus.

Pour le final recouvrez-le d’un peu d’huile d’olive et d’alcool d’anis (Pernod, Ricard ou Absinthe).

Fermez ensuite la papillotte d’aluminium en nouant ses deux bords . Mettez le poisson au four sur une plaque de métal préchauffée à 180 degrés pendant 15 minutes (voire plus selon la taille du poisson).

Si vous n’avez pas de four je recommande alors la préparation dite “à la chinoise “!

French Cuisine at Pissenlit: Suruga Beef, Hirokawa Organic Vegetables and Fukumaru Green Tea Tempura!

Service: excellent and very friendly
Facilities: great washroom, great cleanliness overall
Prices: reasonable, good value.
Strong points: Interesting wine list. Great use of local products.
no-smoking-logoentirely non-smoking!

This superb dish conceived by Chef Tooru Arima at Pissenlit in Shizuoka City has a history I actively contributed to!
To make a long story short I spent this morning high in the mountains in Hirano picking the first tea of the year in the fields of Marufuku Tea Factory (details at the end of this article) and I was really starving when I came back downtown at noon. I decided to visit Pissenlit as I had a couple of ideas in mind!

I did enjoy a full meal before and after the main dish but allow me to concentrate on the latter as it is a true Shizuoka Gastronomic experience!
First the beef is fillet of local Suruga Beef raised in Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City. It was prepared as a classic French steak with Madeira sauce!

Except for the tea leaves the vegetables come from Hirokawa Organic Garden in Mishima City.
As usual Mr. Arima steamed them to perfection preserving their taste, flavor and crispiness!

Marufuku Tea Factory Organic Tea Fields in Hirano, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City!

Mr. Bunji Itoh grows among others two varieties of green tea organically in altitude (over 800 m.!) up in the mountains of Hirano, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City near the source of the Abe River.
I joined him and his daughter, Asami, to pick up the first leaves of the year (Ichi ban cha)!
While workers were busy cutting the rest of the fields I was invited to hand-pick my own new tea leaves, a great honor if there is one!

I knew how to choose and pick the tender tips like the one shown above.
I found myself with a whole bunch of them. By bunch I mean a bag full of them!
The ideal idea came to my mind (sometimes my brain works in the right direction…): I brought them to Mr. Arima at Pissenlit who was more than glad to obtain the first leaves of the year of authentic organic tea from his own city. There are all kinds of ways that a great chef can accommodate them but probably the best one is tempura!

Tender new tea leaves as tempura is not only a gastronomic experience but you can imagine how difficult it is to get the opportunity to taste such a delicacy reserved to the first day of the first crop of the year!
I very much doubt you can be served it even in the best restaurant in Tokyo!

What’s going to be next…? I already have a clear idea! LOL

420-0839 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo, 2-3-4
Tel.: 054-270-8768
Fax: 054-627-3868
Business hours: 11:30~14:30; 17:00~22:00
Closed on Tuesdays and Sunday evening
Homepage (Japanese)
Credit Cards OK

Marufuku Seishya Co. Ltd. (Mr. Bunji Itoh)
Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Wakamatsu Cho, 25
Tel.: 054-271-2011
Fax: 054-271-2010

With a Glass,
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Shimizu goes bananas!

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Article appeared in Shizuoka Shimbun on March 16th
First harvest of bananas grown in Shimizu City.
Mr. masao Yonezawa of Okitsu Higashi Machi, Shimisu Ku, Shizuoka City, has succeeded for the first time in our Prefecture in grrowing and harvesting the fruits of f the 3 “banana trees” ( a grass actually!) inside his green house (“vinyl house in Japlish). He first attempted the culure of bananas in November 2005. His crop was a total failure last year when the flowers refused to germinate. A JA member, he will exhibit the bananas at A Coop Freppie in Okitsu and hopes to start marketing them from next year.

Shizuoka Gourmet: The Purpose



This blog will serve as an umbrella blog for already existing blogs for sake, shochu and sushi made and savoured in Shizuoka Prefecture, and all other aspects of Shizuoka Gastronomy, such as beer, liqueurs, wine (only one!), restaurants, bars, produce and so forth!