Friday, February 16, 2018

Kinmedai no Yuanyaki

It’s an impulse buy when I picked up a whole kinmedai (goldeneye snapper) at the Kagoshima Fish Market in the morning just before I was taking the return flight home that afternoon. I was there to check out the shokudo there for a quick breakfast early morning, then after the meal I saw this beautiful fish lying on the bench at one of the market stalls. Since I was going to cook something for the potluck dinner back home the same evening (“with any goodies I found from the trip”, as I told the host P and S), I bought the fish, asked the fishmonger to separate the head and tail from the body and wrap everything nicely in an icepack, and I then put it in a stainless steel box in my check-in luggage.

By the way, the breakfast at the market was lovely with sashimi platter loaded with seafood fresh from the market served with rice and soup. You can't get anything better with that kind of price, and they opened at 5am if you are an early riser. The market was quiet given many are still in New Year's holidays, but from there I got a clear view of the volcano in Sakurajima just across the Kagoshima Bay. After breakfast and more last-minute grocery shopping (for some kurobuta pork as well), I was ready to get back to the hotel, packed everything up and left.

Turned out it was a bit trickier than I thought to carry all these food ingredients home (I forgot fish tend to smell a bit no matter how fresh it is) and gave me some tense moment going through the custom, but the fish and I returned home safely in good condition. The previous day in Kagoshima I also picked up some other grocery including yuzu and mirin, so I thought I will turn the fish into a Yuan-yaki dish that is quick and easy and made use of the other ingredients I picked up on my travel.

Yuan-yaki (幽庵焼き) in general referred to any grill dish prepared with rice wine marinate (mirin and sake), but now it specifically means using a citrus-based sauce, especially yuzu fruits, especially when they were in season during winter times. The slightly sweet and acidic taste from the marinate, plus the pleasant citrusy aroma, immediately augment any dish, especially seafood, and gave you a refreshing and balancing flavor too, particularly if you are dealing with fatty fish like salmon or in my case, kinmedai.

I got two nice fillets out of the fish, and it was of perfect size to share.

Recipe: Kinmedai no Yuanyaki (grilled goldeneye snapper with citrus marinate)
(Serves 4)


  • 4 fillets of Kinmedai (can substitute with other fish)

(For the marinate)

  • 3 tablespoon of light Japanese soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoon of mirin
  • 3 tablespoon of sake
  • ½ teaspoon of yuzu juice (ideally came from fresh yuzu fruit, or substitute with other citrus fruits like lemon or lime)
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar


1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinate in a bowl, gently heat so the sugar dissolves in the mixture. Let cool slightly.
2. Place the fish fillets in a deep dish and pour the marinate into the dish. Leave for at least 30 minutes (can marinate the night before and leave it overnight for richer flavor)
3. Before cooking, dry the fish slightly of the marinate with kitchen towel. Then you have a choice of either cook the fish in open-fire grill, oven or pan. For oven, pre-heat to 200C, place the fish skin-side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil brushed with oil, then bake for 15-20 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
4. It’s hard to get the skin extra crispy using the oven method, so I finished with the blowtorch to char the skin slightly for a better texture. It’s served with yuzu zest grated on top with extra squeeze of yuzu juice.

Kyushu Travel Series (January 2018):

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