January 7, 2008 – 11:35 am

We went fishing yesterday, and overdid it a bit. 8:30am till 7pm. The hat, shirt and sunscreen weren’t enough, I still got a bit cooked.

The upside was that we caught a variety of fish, sadly none very big. We got lots of Yellowtail, two Tailor, and one each of Leatherjacket, Pike, Trevally (some kind), Whiting, Bream and Tarwhine. We were continuously catching and throwing back tiny Bream and Tarwhine, some too small to even fit the whole hook in their mouths. Greedy little buggers.

We ate one or two of each, some as sashimi, some fried whole. The standouts were the whole shallow fried Tailor and the Trevally sashimi. You can tell that Trevally is in the same family as Yellowtail Kingfish. The meat has a similar texture and taste. The Leatherjacket is destined for hotpot tonight!

People seem to be hesitant to eat fish they catch raw.  All you have to do is make an effort to keep the fish in good condition. Fish should be kept at about 0°C because the protein fibers are shorter than in meat, making it easier for microorganisms to propagate. We take an esky full of ice along with us, the caught fish goes straight into the ice/water slurry. The fish die quickly and painlessly (in theory).

When preparing the fish, carefully remove all of the scales and inner organs. Cleaning the fish properly is even more important than true freshness. This part can be done wet. The next step, filleting, should be done dry. Water can ruin the texture of the meat. When cutting and cleaning the fish, keep your knives, the knife handles, the cutting board and your hands as clean as possible. Small fish, especially those with shiny bluish backs, like sardines, tend to bruise easily, and even the Japanese will not eat them raw unless they are super fresh.

A technique I hope to learn someday is ikejime. As soon as the fish is taken out of the sea, a special hooked tool is used to crush its hindbrain. The heart keeps beating and pumping blood. The idea is to get the fish to pump out its own blood by cutting arteries in the gills and tail. You have to remove the blood because otherwise the fish will retain an unpleasant fishy smell. And you have to restrain the fish because otherwise it will flap about, making the flesh less tasty. A fish restrained the ikejime way is only brain dead—it is so fresh that the muscles still move a little.

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