Tai Meshi

Serves 4

Adapted from Yuri Nomura

1 Tai Snapper, about 2 pounds (900 grams), gutted, scaled, and fins removed, then filleted with skeleton and head reserved

Salt

1⅓ cups (about 260 grams) Japanese-style short grain white rice

1 cup (228 grams) dashi

1 6-inch (15 cm) piece kombu

2 tablespoons white soy sauce

2 tablespoons sake

1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Sansho (Japanese Pepper)

If using a charcoal grill, fill a chimney starter with charcoal and light.

Place rice into a medium bowl and fill with cold water. Agitate the grains with your hands to release some of the starches. Drain and repeat until water runs clear (about 5 cycles of rinsing and draining), then soak for 30 minutes.

Use a sharp knife to halve the fish head lengthwise and discard one half.  Use a paring knife to remove the eye from the remaining half, then rinse head and bones with cold water to remove blood and impurities, then pat dry.  Season fish head and filets with salt on both sides.

When the coals are white-hot, pour them out of the chimney starter into the grill to form a hot bed of coals. Use tongs to move any flaming coals off to one side of grill. Set grill grates over the coals, and allow them to get hot. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high.

When grill grates are very hot, arrange filets and head on the grill, skin-side down.  Avoid cooking directly over a flame. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned, then remove from heat.

Drain rice, then place in a ceramic donabe or 4-quart Dutch oven and spread into an even layer. Layer ingredients over rice in the following order: kombu, bones, filets, head, ginger, dashi, soy sauce and sake. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to lowest setting and cook for another 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow rice to rest, covered, for 10 minutes longer.

To serve, discard ginger, bones, and kombu. Pick meat from head and discard head. Use chopsticks to flake the fish and stir into rice along with any meat picked from head.  

Serve immediately, garnished with sansho pepper.

  Tai Snapper  is also sometimes called Sea Bream. Either ask your fish monger to prepare the fish, or if you are feeling brave,  watch this video  to do it yourself!

Tai Snapper is also sometimes called Sea Bream. Either ask your fish monger to prepare the fish, or if you are feeling brave, watch this video to do it yourself!

  White soy sauce  is saltier and paler than regular soy sauce. If you don't feel like buying a special ingredient for this dish, you can just use 3 tablespoons  regular soy   sauce .

White soy sauce is saltier and paler than regular soy sauce. If you don't feel like buying a special ingredient for this dish, you can just use 3 tablespoons regular soy sauce.

 
  Lengthwise  means cut down the center of the head to yield two identical halves....sorry this is so hard to describe!

Lengthwise means cut down the center of the head to yield two identical halves....sorry this is so hard to describe!