Depachika: Sanma-zushi

Aozakana season is upon us here in Japan. Aozakana literally means ‘blue fish’. Aozakana isn’t a species but a category. Aozakana are varieties like mackerel (saba), saury (sanma), sardine (iwashi) and so on. The backs of these fish are blue in color and in the autumn and winter they are particularly fatty and oily. Japanese say, abura ga notteiru (脂がのっている).

Aburi Sanma Bozushi 炙りさんま棒寿司
From last week or so, I have noticed in the fish and sushi section of a few stores a bozushi like sabazushi (pickled mackerel on sushi rice) that is made with the seasonal sanma, or Pacific saury. The saury is quite a bit smaller than the mackerel, so I imagine that it is quite difficult to make pressed bozushi sushi with. I bought this one at the food court of Takashimaya department store.

Depachika: Sanma-zushi Aburi Sanma Bozushi 炙りさんま棒寿司

Sanma Aburi Sushi: Seared Saury Pressed Sushi

Depachika デパ地下: Department Store Food Court
This article is in our series (with too few articles) called depachika. Depachika means department store (underground) food court; depa (department store) and chika (underground). If you are in Japan and hungry, it is hard to go wrong with depachika food. While department stores used to be very expensive in Japan they are much more reasonably priced now. Generally, shopping at the department store food court will cost you only a bit more than an average priced supermarket. Shopping depachika-style is a lot of fun because the food courts are just SOOOOO over the top. If you are staying at a hotel near a department store you can always buy a lot of depachika food and eat it in your room. That would be cheaper than eating out at even a moderately priced restaurant.

Depachika: Sanma-zushi Aburi Sanma Bozushi 炙りさんま棒寿司

Sanma Aburi Sushi: Seared Saury Pressed Sushi

How did it taste?
This was really great! The sanma was very rich and oily, even more than mackerel. I realized that this must be the most oily aozakana of them all. Before pressing on sushi rice, the fish is lightly seared with a flame. This is aburi. The sushi rice was pretty good, not too sweet, not too sour. There was a thin layer of pickled ginger between the fish and the rice.

I think that I have only had this sushi once before, I can’t remember exactly. So, it is rare. If you see it, it is worth a try. I have seen both seared and non-seared, if you have a choice I would go for the seared variety as the taste is more complex and the searing contrasts well with the fattiness of the fish.

Depachika: Sanma-zushi Aburi Sanma Bozushi 炙りさんま棒寿司

Sanma Aburi Sushi: Seared Saury Pressed Sushi

Kanji (Chinese Character) Lesson
Sanma 秋刀魚: 秋 autumn, 刀 sword, 魚 fish (the fish really looks like a dagger in shape and color)
Aozakana 青魚: 青 blue, 魚 fish
Abura ga notteiru 脂がのっている: There are two similar characters that can be read as ‘abura’; 油 oil and 脂 fat. Some Japanese may be mistaken about the proper character I have heard.

Depachika: Sanma-zushi Aburi Sanma Bozushi 炙りさんま棒寿司

Sanma 秋刀魚: The Autumn 'Sword' Fish

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5 Responses to “Depachika: Sanma-zushi”

  1. Corie L Stern says:

    Thank you for this! Feel I’m really getting an education on real Japanese cuisine! Beautiful photography ! Corie

  2. TK says:

    Oooh! This looks like it has the label, ‘today’s lunch’, on it.


  3. TK says:

    The sushi was really go-od! Thanks for the tip. I had ‘sanma tsukuri’ too recently. Also up there. Do you like it?


  4. Viola says:

    This looks very well! Thank you for the blog!

  5. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Corie, Glad you are getting an education here, I really hope that people will be inspired by KyotoFoodie and adopt and adapt some of the insights and techniques of Japanese cuisine into their cooking.

    Hello TK, Oh, you went and got some? Great! To me, sanma tsukuri (sashimi) is ok, I think sanma is too oily to really eat raw. It is best pickled and seared, a bit, I think.

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