Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tai Meshi


Tai Meshi (Japanese pilaf with sea bream??) Cooked in Donabe

I'm not sure if "pilaf" is a proper translation for Japanese "takikomi gohan." When making pilaf, do you always need to saute raw rice (with butter) before cooking it in broth? Japanese takikomi gohan does not require sauteing rice, so maybe it shouldn't be called "pilaf." But I guess, from this translation, you can get some idea of what takikomi gohan is like, right? ;)

Here in Japan, tai (sea bream) is an expensive fish which is used for formal celebrations including wedding, baby's "first-feeding ceremony" etc. and also when someone achieved a great success. Thus, tai meshi also sounds like an expensive dish, and it actually was, I think, in the past. But these days young Japanese wives make the dish more casually and economically, making a good use of store-bought sea bream sashimi. Yes, those raw fish slices that come in plastic containers. Usually you see only 7 or 8 thin slices in one pack, but the good thing about tai meshi is that you don't need a whole lot of fish -- the fish is supposed to be mixed into rice anyway... like this.


I usually grill the sea bream beforehand, as recommended in many tai meshi recipes. I guess that makes the dish less fishy and more fragrant. The thinly sliced dark-green stuff in the top photo is kombu kelp from making dashi stock. Of course, it was my own crazy idea, but I always don't know what to do with the kelp after making dashi stock, so I thought adding it to this tai meshi could be a good idea -- It might even add extra umami. ;)


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14 comments:

Amy said...

That looks so good! I've never made tai-meshi because a whole fish would make way too much. What a good idea to just use slices!

By the way, did the kombu add umami? I'm also at a loss as to what to do with leftover kombu. All I know is to make tsukudani, but there's a limit of how much tsukudani I can eat.

mama bok said...

Yummy..!! I would love to try some.. ;) fish are just so good.. ;)

cocogirl said...

Obachan,
I missed tai meshi, especially in Shikoku... here in Vancouver, BC the snapper fish is probably close as you can get to the tai. I wished I was there... looks so good!

Anonymous said...

dear obachan

the rice texture looks yummy.Lots of love and regards from malaysiaelayne

etsuko said...

Hi Obachan,
Your tai meshi looks so good. I made tai meshi a few weeks ago, and I acutually bought tai from a fish shop in Kochi, Taisho Ichiba! It was so good. I have to steal your idea about konbu next time.

e said...

Hi Obachan,

Your tai meshi looks so good. It seems to be a dish that is so traditional that everyone knows how to prepare it. Dare I ask for the recipe? Thank you for your blog!

xm said...

hello obachan! im anonymous commenter from the last entry. can i please have the recipe? i think itll make a great change to my otherwise boring diet :) my email address is rockster012 (@hotmail.com). best regards, xm.

Joanna said...

can this dish look any more delicious????

obachan said...

Amy
I bet it would taste much better if used a whole fish (because the bones and the head will give more flavor to the dish) but I think sashimi tai meshi tastes OK, too.

I couldn't tell if kombu added extra umami, but I heard that in Ehime, where tai meshi is very popular, they always add a sheet of kombu to cook this dish.

Mama Bok
I know you love fish. Is it salmon season over there?

Cocogirl
Yeah, I want to try tai meshi in Ehime someday...

Elayne
Thank you :)

Etsuko
Oh, you live in Nakatosa?! I love that small town. I've been to Taisho ichiba a couple of times. Such a nice place and lots of fresh fish.

E
Thank you. It is a traditional dish but I don't think everyone knows how to make it. Since sea bream is expensive, tai meshi was probably popular only in the areas where the fish is abundant and less expensive.

About the recipe... Sorry. With my new donabe, I had to change/adjust the proportion of the rice and liquid ingredients, but forgot to write it down. So I can't post a recipe this time.

Xm
Again, sorry I cannot present a recipe this time.

Joanna
Sure, if it was in a bigger donabe with a whole fish on top of rice. ;)

Kai said...

Since I found your blog by chance, I've been hooked, trying out some of the recipes you posted, or searching for recipes in case of the "pictures only" blog entries.

This weekend, I played around with this tai meshi... following your hint to use slices instead of a whole fish. Actually, they didn't have tai sashimi in "my" supermarket, but cut two pieces out of a whole tai fish for me; Japanese are incredibly helpful!

Anyway, I grilled the slices, put them on top of the seasoned uncooked rice, and cooked the whole thing. It tasted pretty good, but the fish was a bit dry, as if cooked too long. Unfortunately, you cannot control this, since the time is determined by the rice cooker. It might be a different story when using a whole fish.

Any ideas how to deal with that? Opening the rice cooker half time to insert the fish? Can you substitute the tai with another (probably smaller, cheaper) fish to be cooked in one piece? Any other idea?

Thanks,
Kai

obachan said...

Hi Kai,

Thanks for your nice comment. And you must be a real fish lover -- Honestly I never paid attention to how juicy or dry the fish is in tai meshi. As you can see in these photos, I mix the fish into rice like this, so it's hard to tell.

I'm not sure how to deal with the problem, but I don't recommend opening the rice cooker half way. It'd definitely ruin the quality of the rice, which is -- in my opinion -- far more devastating than these flaked fish being dry. I don't know if this helps or not, but I usually sprinkle some sake on tai slices before grilling them.

I don't know if using a whole fish would help in terms of the moistness of the fish, but it would surely make the whole dish more flavorful because good dashi will come out from the fish bones. But if you substitute tai with another fish, be careful... because some fish might make the dish too "fishy" and smelly. That is not necessarily bad -- some people like this dish really fishy -- but in that case I would change the proportion of the liquid seasoning and add more condiments.

Sorry I can't be much of help.

Kai said...

Hi Obachan,

thank you for your reply... I meant to answer faster, but I've been busy. You know how it is.

Yeah, thinking some more about it, opening the rice cooker halfway was a stupid idea. :-) I'll try out your hint with the sake, and probably also other kinds of fish in the future: I'm still convinced that using a whole fish would be a good idea, but my rice cooker is surely not big enough for a whole tai. ^_^
So, thanks again.

obachan said...

Hi again,

I wonder if "your" supermarket has any smaller kinds of tai. Ask them if they have "chidai" or "renkodai." Those can be around 10 cm or less, thus a whole fish would fit in a rice cooker.

Kai said...

Hi again,

without wanting this to become an "endless story", I have two more comments to our tai meishi discussion:

Well, first, thanks for the hint of asking for smaller kinds. I wasn't that lucky, and I'm back in Germany now (so I have to look for other alternatives anyway), but it was worth a try.

However, I did another experiment: Using ebi instead of tai. Big ones, complete with head and everything. I have to admit, they definitely became kinda hard (from being cooked too long), but in the end, the final "ebi meishi" tasted wonderful. The prawns gave the rice a nice reddish touch. Just my two cents worth.