Ice Fishing & Shishamo

March 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go ice fishing on Kanayama Lake.

As you can see from the number of tents, ice fishing is a relatively popular past time in Hokkaido. We were fishing for shishamo, which are a type of Japanese smelt (edit: these are actually wakasagi, which are a type of fresh water smelt – shishamo are salt water smelt). The gentlemen I accompanied had a tent complete with tea kettle, heaters, copious amounts of beer, and six relatively narrow holes bored deep into the ice.

Several large water bottles and a bucket were used to hold the fish we caught.

Me, excited to pose with dinner.

Shishamo (and wakasagi) are generally prepared whole, deep fried or grilled and salted. They are especially popular in izakaya. At the end of the day I left with about 20 smelts, hungry for dinner. I decided to cook them the way my fishing companions had recommended. It’s very simple and doesn’t really require a recipe, but I’ll detail the method.

First, wash and dry the fish.

Next heat the oil in the vessel of your preference for deep frying. I ended up using olive oil because I was out of vegetable oil, but I wouldn’t recommend it (I got splattered a lot). Coat the fish in potato starch (I think you could substitute corn starch if necessary). Fry in the oil until crisp and golden. Let drain on paper towels and salt generously.

I think the trick here is to make sure the fish are as crisp as possible and amply salted. They should be eaten while still hot.

I was a little apprehensive about preparing these. I very rarely cook fish. My fisherman friends said that if a smelt is on the larger side, it should be cut up and the feces/innards removed. But size is relative and the smaller ones also have feces. So… I’m eating fish feces. What if I didn’t cook them enough? I don’t want to be eating fish feces at all but I won’t tolerate them under-cooked (what is the correct cooking time for fish feces anyway?).

Although I enjoyed the taste (the brains were a little bitter) and I’ve had these in izakaya before and never had an issue, I think the process of catching and cooking the fish ended up being a little problematic for me. But I had been told I had to eat them all, because I killed them, and I was feeling a little guilty, so I did.


Winter in Hokkaido – Kimchi Jigae

March 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Does your bathroom ever smell liked cooked pee? Uh, neither does mine. But well I got a small heater for my bathroom so the toilet would stop freezing and let’s just say – there are side effects. Within the first two days of being back, I had two broken sinks, a burst pipe that flooded the floor, an ice-covered toilet seat, and a frozen, unflushable toilet.

But don’t worry, this isn’t a recipe for cooked pee (how easy would that recipe be?). It is, however, a recipe for those days when your toilet seat is covered in icicles and you can see your breath while you’re peeing. These days still happen here, even in March.

Kimchi & Pork Belly Stew

This is a recipe that you can easily adjust to whatever ingredients you have, and which I’ve made a number of ways. Here are the basics, but please feel free to substitute whatever you like. It’s loosely based on several recipes for kimchi jigae.


1 onion, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced in thick wedges or rounds
1 daikon, sliced and quartered
meat! (I’ve used thinly sliced pork belly, thick cut pork belly, lamb with the skin on, and various combinations of the three – you can use whatever you fancy, but the thick pork belly and lamb get very tender with this kind of preparation and add a lot of flavor to the finished product)
package of thick shirataki (you can use thin, but I like the texture of the udon-thick variety)
package kimchi (1-2 cups)
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 c sake
1 c water (add more if needed, depending on how much vegetables/meat you use, everything should be covered – adjust miso, etc. accordingly)
1/4 c light soy sauce (don’t use regular soy sauce, it will be too salty)
1 tbs mirin
2-3 tbs miso (adjust to taste)
2-3 tsp gochujang (adjust to taste)
2 tsp minced ginger
tofu (optional)
green onions/naganegi, sliced thinly (optional)


Fry the pork belly and/or lamb (skin side down) to render the fat. Remove from the pan and stir fry the onions. Add the carrots, daikon, and any other vegetable you’d like to use (I’ve tried sweet potatoes and potatoes before). Add the meat back into the pan along with the kimchi, shirataki, and garlic. When fragrant add the sake, water, soy sauce, mirin, miso, gochujang, and ginger. Stir to combine and adjust to taste. Bring to a boil and then cover and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 1-2 hours or until the vegetables and meat are tender. You can also add cubes of tofu at the end and let simmer until heated through. Garnish with sliced green onions or naganegi. This is good served on rice, but with the shirataki I prefer to eat it without.

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