Usually the fresher the fish, the better, but sometimes the Japanese like to cure their fish to develop different flavors. That’s what chef Nick Bognar is doing at Indo in St. Louis.
He takes Japanese seabream, or madai, and uses a water gun with a pike on the end to remove and clean out the spinal cord and main bloodline. Then he removes the rest of the bloodlines by hand, cleans the fish, scales it and removes the gills. Then he hangs it for 24 hours in a pharmaceutical fridge that maintains a temperature of between 2 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius (35-43 Fahrenheit). Once a thin, hard protective layer forms he wraps the fish in absorbent anti-microbial towels, which he changes about once a day for 3-5 days.
Next he fillets the fish, leaving the skin on, soaks it in cold water and blanches the skin by pouring hot water over it, which releases the layer of fat between the skin and the flesh. Then he slices it sashimi style, and serves it, skin-on, in a traditional ceviche sauce called leche de tigre that he makes by soaking fish bones and cartilage for at least a day in a blend of lemon, lime, sudachi, yuzu and fish sauce. Since he doesn’t let the leche de tigre cure the fish, Bognar says this isn’t technically a ceviche.
“We want it to taste like ceviche, but at the same time you get this fresh fish flavor.”
It’s garnished with trout roe, daikon radish and yukari, which is dried red shiso leaves.
Availability: Indefinitely, depending on availability of madai