Salmon chanchanyaki (© Mara Yamauchi)
When I lived in Japan, one of the things I loved was ‘Kyodo Ryori’ – local speciality foods or dishes which have a strong symbolic attachment to their place of origin.
Using ingredients drawn from the local landscape (mountains, coast, plains etc), they showcase the best of what a particular area has to offer in the way of food. The local people – as producers, cooks and consumers – are rightly proud of their town or region’s Kyodo Ryori. And as a visitor, going to a particular place without trying the local specialities is a definite no-no!
My training and racing trips around Japan enabled me to try a few of them, including Sanuki Udon noodles at Kagawa Prefecture’s Marugame Half Marathon, Shijimi (clam) Miso Soup at the Matsue Ladies Half Marathon in Shimane, and Taimeshi (sea bream with rice) at the Ehime Marathon. Perhaps my favourite of all is Oyaki from Nagano – small rice patties enclosing various tasty fillings. Japan’s Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry has established a list of these dishes from every prefecture, so no matter where you go, there will always be a special local dish to try.
My recipe today is one of Hokkaido’s officially designated Kyodo Ryori specialities: salmon chanchanyaki. Hokkaido is deservedly famous for its delicious fish and seafood. I love this dish because of its basic but very healthy ingredients – oily fish and lots of vegetables – which, along with a little flavouring, make a scrumptious, nutritious and simple meal.
Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo, will host the marathons and race walks at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Call me biased but I absolutely cannot wait for these events! I’m thinking of Sapporo this week too because its incredible snow festival of snow and ice sculptures gets underway next week – this year online due to the pandemic.
For anyone and everyone planning to visit Japan for the Olympics or later, do please try at least one Kyodo Ryori dish… I promise, you will be in for a treat!
• Fresh salmon, 4 slices
• Salt & pepper
• Cabbage, half of a small one
• Onion, one large
• Carrot, one large
• Mushrooms, one small pack (shimeji or enoki are best)
• Butter, one knob
• Miso, 3 tablespoons
• Sake, 2 tablespoons
• Sugar, 1 tablespoon
• Mirin, 1 tablespoon
• Pat the salmon pieces dry with kitchen paper, and season with salt and pepper.
• Wash and then chop all the vegetables into bite-size pieces. If using shimeji or enoki, cut off the base and roughly separate them (I used chestnut mushrooms as an alternative due to shopping difficulties during lockdown).
• In a small bowl, mix together the miso, sake, sugar and mirin into a smooth paste.
• In a large frying pan, melt the butter on high heat. Add the salmon pieces to the pan, skin-side up (if you don’t like the skin, you can remove it at the start – I keep it in because of the fat under the skin which adds flavour).
• Once nicely browned, flip them over and fry the skin side until just browned. Then add all the vegetables around the edge of the pan, surrounding the salmon pieces.
• Pour over the miso mixture, ensuring a roughly even covering across the pan. Place a lid on the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. This should soften the vegetables without over-cooking them and cook the salmon pieces through.
• Finally, with a wooden spoon, roughly break up the salmon into bite-size pieces and mix it in with the vegetables around the pan. Serve immediately with rice.
Traditional Japanese meals like this always include miso soup, but since this dish has miso in it, I prefer to eat it just with rice. Enjoy and…. itadakimasu!
Mara Yamauchi for Be Active