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Tenkara

Iwana sashimi

On August 17, 2011
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Comments (6)

Even those who really like Japanese food and enjoy eating slices of raw fish, known as sashimi, are often surprised to learn that trout can also make awesome sashimi. This includes people from the big cities of Japan, who are accustomed to eating sashimi from ocean fish. This picture was taken soon after I arrived in Japan in May, and the two friends from Tokyo that accompanied me were trying iwana (Japanese char) sashimi for their first time. I had eaten iwana as well as amago sashimi before, and was in agreement when they said it was their new favorite sashimi.

In the mountain areas of Japan, where trout are raised in farms with cold and very clean water, residents have access to some of the best sashimi anywhere. Iwana, a Japanese char, is the preferred fish for sashimi as it is slightly fatter. Other trout, such as Amago, can also be used and are delicious to eat as well, but their leaner meat has slightly less flavor. In fact, the availability of trout in these areas, and the long distance a sea fish would have to be carried to be served, also make trout sashimi the preferred option in more isolated mountain regions of Japan.

I do wish I had the opportunity to enjoy freshly caught sashimi on the stream-side. But near the end of my trip, when the opportunity did arise, I was feeling very bad with the idea of eating even one of the few wild trout left in Japan. Fishing had been poor, primarily because the idea of catch-and-release is still not a normal part of the culture, and I certainly preferred not to contribute to the diminishing stock of fish in the streams. I wonder, however, how often the professional tenkara anglers of old times enjoyed uncooked, fresh iwana and amago sashimi to nourish their bodies during a day of hard fishing.

The leaf below the slices of fish is the shiso leaf, a mint-like leaf often eaten with sushi and sashimi. I actually have been growing shiso at home for a few months as it is a bit expensive to buy, but very handy when my wife and I make sushi at home. The flower stem on the left of the slices of Iwana are the shiso flowers. The small petals were taken out and placed on the small tray of soy sauce for added flavor.

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6 Responses to Iwana sashimi

  1. statikpunk says:

    very interesting, I Love sushi!! I have always heard that freshwater fish can not be used for sushi, and I have always wanted to try it. apparently the Japanese do not feel that way. I imagine that cautionary note is because of pollution in fresh waters. I have a glacial creek that has an explosive native population of brook trout in my area. I’m gonna stick a bottle of soy sauce in my creel next time and give it a try.

  2. statikpunk says:

    Ok upon looking into it further, they still say not to eat fresh water fish. :( apparently the risk is that of tapeworms in trout. they say flash freezing is a remedy for that should you have access, other than that they only recommend farm raised fish, raised under strict controls in clean waters, as Daniel mentioned in his blog. so in conclusion the fish is safe but the passengers may be a problem. :(

    • Yes, indeed the first time I ate it I was surprised because I was also under the impression freshwater fish could carry parasites. This last time I asked if they did anything to the trout before serving it and the restaurant owner said no because it cam from a reputable farm with clean water and where it was fed good food. Some people also eat wild fish, but only from areas where the risk is minimal/non existent. I will not likely do it myself.
      Thanks for bringing this point up. I think it is very important that people don’t go out trying to eat raw fish unless they have to or know what they are doing.

  3. Tim Nitz says:

    Last fall I had every intention of eating some stream-side up in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, but even after eliminating what could have been simple cultural bias, it still seemed inadvisable. I am glad you asked about preparation, though, because it was something I couldn’t find out about.

    I’m guessing it tasted like butter…

  4. Tim Nitz says:

    I should clarify – I was speaking of Brook Trout. Iwana sashimi is often made of arctic char, usually raised in very cold or salt water. That said, the inspiration for me thinking about it was from Japanese mountain fishermen who do eat freshwater Iwana sashimi. I chickened out and didn’t try it, myself.

    • Kind of funny you ended the comment with “chickened out”, last year I also had chicken sashimi! Yes, though it sounds like the riskiest thing to eat, the chef assured us the chicken was of the highest quality. Not a problem at all.

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