Local fish: “Houbou”/Blue Fin Robin


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!

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