Nobu Hakuni-Style Simmered Anago/Sawara

In continuing my exploration of simmered/poached seafood, I thought about Hakuni-style Simmered Anago from Nobu: The Sushi Cookbook (p.89). Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on anago, so I looked up the closest substitute for it.  A close substitute was suggested from  the Sarafina Center@http://safinacenter.org/programs/sustainable-seafood-program/ocean-friendly-substitutes/

The Sarafina Center commented: (Freshwater Eel)…Try Spanish Mackerel or American Lobster as a substitute for the dense fleshed Freshwater Eel. Both share a deep, rich flavor which pairs well with a preparation in which a sweetened sauce is used.  While the Nobu recipe calls for 2 to 3 butterflied anago fillets (rinse the slime off the skin), I would be using the sawara

Braise seasonings (sake,sugar,soy salt, usukuchi soy)

Braise seasonings (sake,sugar,soy salt, usukuchi soy)

for this dish.  The braising liquid was pretty easy to make. It was:

2 cups water
1/4 cup (50ml) sake
1 1/2 T sugar
1 T usukuchi soy sauce
1/2 t salt

measuring out the sake

measuring out the sake

Added the usukuchi soy to the water and sake

Added the usukuchi soy to the water and sake

measuring out the salt and sugar for the braise

measuring out the salt and sugar for the braise

Salt/sugar added to the braise; had to bring it up to a boil to dissolve them

Salt/sugar added to the braise; had to bring it up to a boil to dissolve them

The braise ready for eel (or in this case, sawara)

The braise ready for eel (or in this case, sawara)

The instructions were straightforward – bring the braising mixture to a boil and add in the fillets. When the braise comes back

added the fillets to the braise and just brought it back to a boil and then flipped them over

added the fillets to the braise and just brought it back to a boil and then flipped them over

to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 8 minutes.  My wife commented that the aroma from the braise really smelled like Japanese style eel being cooked for sushi!

flipped them over one last time before taking them off the heat

flipped them over one last time before taking them off the heat

Now the question was how to present the sawara/anago.  The only thing I could think of was eggplant since that was a pairing used with an mackerel/eggplant dish in Nobu Now.  For that item, I split a ‘small’ eggplant lengthwise and then cut into 1″

Eggplant prepared for braise

Eggplant prepared for braise

width pieces to be put into a braise of about 2 1/2 cups of dashi, 1 1/2 tablespoons of usukuchi soy and 1 tablespoon of mirin.

Initial amount of dashi for the eggplant braise. I needed to add another cup of water to 'cover' the eggplant

Initial amount of dashi for the eggplant braise. I needed to add another cup of water to ‘cover’ the eggplant

  *That* braising mixure I brought to a boil and then added the eggplant pieces, brought it back to a boil and then cooked it covered on

Getting the eggplant underway

Getting the eggplant underway

medium heat for about 10 minutes.  By the way – the ‘braised eggplant’ sort of follows the Dashi-Marinated Eggplant in Nobu:

simmered/braised eggplant ready to be cooked covered

simmered/braised eggplant ready to be cooked covered

The Vegetarian Cookbook (p. 48) insofar as the nearly 1:1 ratio of soy to mirin (I used a little more soy here as personal preference).  The cookbook version first deep fries its eggplant and then lets it marinate in a mix of 5:1:1 ratio of kombu dashi:soy:mirin.

With both the sawara hakuni and simmered eggplant ready, the quickest way I thought to try the dish was to present it as a donburi.

Dinner is ready

Dinner is ready

My wife and I were happy on how the dish turned out. She mentioned how soft the sawara was and not ‘dried out’.  There was also the eel-like flavor profile for having been cooked in that seasoned braising liquid and the soy salt really accentuated that flavor profile.  The interesting thing is that it did not come across as sweet as I thought it might have, given 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar in the braise. My wife commented that it was easy enough to make that she would like to see this item again in the near future (perhaps as part of bara sushi/chirashi?).   In retrospect, I really wonder if I should have used rice prepared for nigiri instead of just plain rice to really appreciate the simmered sawara. Matsuhisa-sama says this cooked seafood (anago, and perhaps sawara) can be kept 3 days, refirdgerated. If I make an extra amount in the future,I wonder if I really could get the opportunity to make bara sushi/chirashi with this ingredient?

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