Home Cooking with Aozakana: Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯
Iwashi (sardine); aozakana
Sardine is called iwashi in Japanese and iwashi is an aozakana (青魚), literally, ‘blue fish’. Blue refers to the color of the back of the fish. Aozakana are in season in autumn and winter in Japan and are rich, oily fish and therefore very tasty and nourishing.
Iwashi-gohan is very simple to prepare and so, so delicious! Iwashi, as it is an aozakana is big and heavy in flavor, a flavor that might not be for everyone. However, cooking it in rice with ginger and sake mellows out the intensity of the sardine flavor considerably. So, don’t be afraid to give this recipe a try.
- 6-10 whole sardines (depending on size)
- 2 – 2 1/2 cups short grain rice (mugi, rolled oats is a nice addition)
- fresh ginger julienned
- 5 tablespoons cooking sake
- 1 tablespoon mirin (optional)
- dried kombu (optional)
Cleaning the sardines simply involves cutting off the heads and tails, removing the entrails and optionally pulling out the backbone.
Iwashi flesh, especially the belly skin is very soft so gutting the fish is best done by cutting off the bottom 1/4 of the belly on a cutting board. Most of the guts come out with the belly skin. Simply wash out the rest under running water. A gentle pull on the backbone will remove most of it. You can leave it in or take it out.
After cleaning the iwashi place in salt water for several hours. This removes some of the fishiness. If you can get really fresh, sushi quality iwashi, you can probably skip this. Rinse well before adding to the rice.
Use short grain rice if at all possible. Wash the rice thoroughly, until the poured off water is fairly clear. If you are adding mugi (rolled oats) add it after washing the rice. Now in Japan there is ‘washless’ rice (無洗米), but I am assuming that is not common in the English speaking lands. The amount of water needed will depend on your cooking method. The best is an electric rice cooker. Electric rice cookers have markings inside to denote the amount of water needed for various kinds of rice and rice/grain mixtures. If you are cooking rice in a pan on the stove, see the instructions on the rice bag as cooking requirements may vary depending on rice grain size and dryness.
Pour clean, fresh water on the rice, add cooking sake if you have it. Next, add the sardines and julienned ginger. Adding a bit of mirin, salt and dried kombu will enhance the flavor of the finished rice. Cover and cook.
After the iwashi-gohan has finished cooking, remove the kombu and turnover several times with a rice paddle or similar large serving spoon and re-cover for several minutes.
Serve in a large bowl and garnish with chopped scallions.
You may wish to add a small amount of shoyu but it should be sufficiently flavorful.
Iwashi Gohan Ingredients
Iwashi Gohan Ready to Cook
Kombu and ginger is added and it is ready to cook!
Iwashi Gohan Done
Note the measuring marks on the inside of the rice cooker that denote the appropriate amount of water for various kinds of rice.
Iwashi Gohan Served
Iwashi Gohan Served – detail