Smoked Sashimi Ideal for Outdoor Cooking; Dish Delivers Deep Smoky Flavor Using Wood Chips or Hojicha Roasted Green Tea Leaves

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Smoked sashimi

In the world of outdoor cooking, meat dishes tend to dominate. A sophisticated dish made with fish would add some variety to outdoor cooking. Food coordinator and outdoor cook Nahoko Minakuchi recommends an easy appetizer of lightly smoked sashimi.

In recent years, more and more people have enjoyed making smoked food. I am eager to try it, and since I am a bit concerned about the smell, I would prefer doing it outdoors. However, the preparation and cleanup of cooking tools along with how long it takes to cook seem daunting.

“There are smoked fish dishes that can be done in a short time,” Minakuchi said. “Sashimi can be easily infused with a light smoky flavor.”

One tool to cook the dish is a small piece of outdoor cookware called a mess tin, which allows heat and smoke to circulate efficiently. It can be found at 100 yen shops and other retailers.

“Removing the smell of smoke from cooking utensils can be challenging, even after washing them. Using inexpensive tools dedicated to smoking food might be a good idea,” Minakuchi said.

Both the mesh to use in the mess tin and the smoke chips are also available at 100 yen shops.

You can cook smoked sashimi with your choice of fish. I chose sea bream and shime-saba, which is salt and vinegar marinated mackerel. I prepared blocks of sea bream and shime-saba fillets and cut them into three sections that also fit inside the mess tin.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shime-saba is smoked in a mess tin.

To cook, line the inside of the mess tin with aluminum foil, line the bottom with the smoking chips, then place a cooking wire rack inside. The amount of chips should be just enough to not touch the rack. Heat the mess tin over low to medium heat until smoke begins to waft, then place the fish on the rack. Wrap the lid of the mess tin with aluminum foil, placing it slightly askew before turning off the heat. This method allows heat and smoke to circulate inside the mess tin, enabling the fish to be smoked in a short time. Adjust how long you smoke the fish to your preference.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A mess tin lined with double-layered aluminum foil, with smoking chips and a rack placed inside

Infused with the fragrance of wood, the smoky aroma permeates through the nose with each bite. The sea bream meat becomes tender, and the mackerel’s vinegar flavor is softened, making both easy to eat. They are best enjoyed paired with sake or white wine.

Hojicha tea for smoking chips

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hojicha tea leaves, left, and zarame coarse sugar, both of which can be used as substitutes for smoking chips

A mixture of hojicha roasted green tea and coarse sugar, such as zarame, can be used instead of smoking chips. “Hojicha is utilized for its aroma, while sugar aids in producing more smoke,” Minakuchi said.

She also shared post-cooking tips: Extinguish smoldering chips by soaking them in water; tar created on the mess tin from the smoke can be removed with a melamine sponge. When cooking indoors, ensure the room is well-ventilated.

Smoked sashimi

Ingredients (2 mess tins, each with a capacity of about 180 ml to 240 ml):

  • 30-50 gram fillet block of sea bream meant for sashimi
  • 60-70 grams shime-saba mackerel
  • Shirodashi, a light-colored condensed soup stock, as needed

  • Directions:

    1. Sprinkle shirodashi soup stock over the sea bream, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. Use the shime-saba as is. Fillet both fish into sizes that easily fit into the mess tin.

    2. Line the inside of the mess tin with a double layer of aluminum foil. Place smoking chips and the rack inside.

    3. Heat the mess tin from below using a burner or gas stove. Once the smoke starts to emerge, place the sea bream on the rack. Then, slightly offset the lid wrapped in aluminum foil and turn off the heat. Smoke for about 2 minutes, or until the surface of the fish changes color.

    4. Smoke the shime-saba the same way in another mess tin for about 3-4 minutes.

    5. Take out the smoked fish from each mess tin, slice thinly, and serve on a plate.