Midnight Snack: Whole Ayu Sweetfish Sugatani Served on Jukkokumai Rice
The other day I was up in Shiga Prefecture, just over the East Mountains from Kyoto, on the shores of Lake Biwa and I was given a package of whole sugatani ayu, a trout-like sweetfish from Lake Biwa as a gift.
Itadakimono: A Gift Humbly Received
The giving of small gifts in Japan is an important part of the culture and gifts are very often food. Ayu, the sweetfish that inhabit rivers in Japan and Lake Biwa are prepared in a myriad of ways. Ayu Sugatani 鮎姿煮, is whole ayu simmered in sweetened sake and soy sauce with sansho. The small, 15 cm fish have been simmered a very long time, so you can eat everything; the head, bones, fins, internals. There is no bitterness from the internals and I didn’t even notice that I was eating bones. In Japan it is said that eating the bones of fish is very nutritious.
Whole Simmered Ayu on Jukkokumai ’10 Grain’ Rice
I made some rice (also some itadakimono) with jukkokumai 十穀米, literally ’10 grains rice’. Jukkokumai comes in small packets and contains 10 kinds of grains that can be added to the rice cooker to make white rice more hearty and nutritious. There are lots of variations, 5, 10, 15 grain, and each company’s mix usually contains a unique assortment of grains.
I was intending the jukkokumai to be for breakfast but as I hadn’t eaten much today I decided to have some with my simmered ayu itadakimono for a midnight snack.
It just took a minute to prepare and tasted wonderful. I took one ayu out from the vacuum pack and cut it into thin sections. I simply placed it atop the rice and voilà! The gokokumai would have been a little bland all by itself and the simmered ayu would have been too salty alone. This was the perfect combination.
I washed it down with some sweet potato shochu (imo-jochu) in hot water (oyu-wari). On a cold winter night, just before bed, shochu with hot water really hits the spot! The imo-jochu variety has a very strong and peculiar taste and bouquet. Imo-jochu is popular with older men in Japan. Women, as a rule, can’t stand the stuff.
Whole Simmered Ayu – In the Package
Whole Simmered Ayu – Sliced
The left side is the head and the right is the tail.
Whole Simmered Ayu on Jukkokumai Rice
Whole Simmered Ayu on Jukkokumai Rice – detail
Whole Simmered Ayu on Jukkokumai Rice – How to Eat
Sorry about the horrible photo, I was eating with one hand and photographing with the other. So, you just scoop up some rice with a piece of ayu.
Other Ayu Related Articles on KyotoFoodie
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu Sweetfish Shaped Confection
Wagashi: More Kawaii Father’s Day Wagashi