Being an island nation, Japan has always consumed a huge quantity of seafood, and up until recently this has also been true of the British Isles, a tradition that we’re sadly losing. Whilst shopping in our local fish market we came across some beautifully fresh sprats, a very typical fish in classic British cuisine and knew we could use them to make something very Japanese. Sprats, as with most small fish, have fallen out of favour in recent years as people tend to prefer larger fish with fewer bones, however they’re packed full of omega oils and B-vitamins and their flavour is well worth the little extra effort. As sprats are from the same family, these little oily fish are a perfect substitute for the sardines that would normally be used in this old fashioned dish of daikon, ginger, fish and a sweet sticky sauce.
An old Japanese trick to cook oily fish with sake to lessen the strong odours is used in this recipe, and the spicy shards of ginger cut through the richness. If you can’t get hold of sprats then use sardines and allow 2-3 fish per person for a main course.
- 500g fresh sprats
- 100g daikon
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dashi powder
- 1″ by 6″ piece of dried kombu
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded ginger
- 400ml water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Prepare your fish, slit them along their bellies and remove any innards. Rinse them in plenty of cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel. You can leave them with their organs in if you want, but we find them overly bitter if left this way.
- Peel the daikon, cut in half lengthways and then into 1cm thick half moons. Mix together the water, sake, honey, mirin, soy sauce, dashi and caster sugar and set aside. Rinse the piece of kombu in cold water until it is clean and supple.
- Heat your oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the sprats. Gently fry them on both sides until lightly coloured, then add the sauce, kombu, daikon and ginger. Using a circle of baking parchment to make a drop lid for the pan, bring to a low simmer and allow to cook for twenty minutes.
- Once the fish have had their twenty minutes cooking, remove from the pan and keep warm while you reduce the sauce to a sticky glaze over a high heat. Add the sprats back into the pan, spooning the glaze over them to coat fully before serving.
Serves 4 people, or 6 as a starter or bar snack.