I have a confession to make. When the people at Kona Blue sent me a fish to play with a month ago, they wanted me to try cooking it a few different ways. I didn’t. We ate almost all of it as the Kampachi Tartare. There was enough left over to cook it, but certainly not enough to try it with a few different methods.
So, I bought some more. Crazy birthday parties out of the way, this weekend I had some time to get to know this fish a bit better, but this time cooked instead of raw. I wasn’t a huge fan of it cooked when I cooked it as skewers, a few posts ago. I found the meat overly fishy in flavor (and I normally really like a good strong fish taste, but this just tasted old), and lacking in texture.
It rather ticked me off to be honest. Here was a really high quality fish, and it didn’t cook up that great. Well, I am rather proud to say that my views have changed somewhat – and it has nothing to do with free fish, nothing at all.
I should explain. This is a delicate fish – dense but delicate. Cooking time has to be precise, otherwise you end up with a fishy mess. A complete waste of $20/lb. The skewers I overcooked. That is clear to me now. I wanted to try the fish cooked all the way through – not just quickly seared on the outside; because I know how this fish taste raw – fricking fabulous.
This time was different. I realised this fish actually cooks really bloody fast, and it really comes down to a matter of seconds between it being cooked through perfectly, and overcooked. In fact, even the time it takes to plate the food, and get the first bite in can even effect it.
My plan then – cook the fish 3 different ways, and see what works out best. Each time I cooked the Kampachi until it was “almost” cooked all the way through, and let the heat of the fish do the rest.
So – how did I prepare it?
Kampachi Sake Kasu
Kampachi fish balls with ginger and shiso – apriplum dipping sauce
Cooked Kampachi Sashimi
Any my favorite? Hard to say. The sashimi was actually pretty great I have to say, and somewhat of a surprise. The fish balls were fabulous – very light, very delicate. The sake kasu was also good, but in my mind the fish is too dense for this preparation. I have cooked and eaten a fair amount of Black Cod (sablefish) Sake Kasu, and I honestly prefer its cooked texture better in the Kasu presentation. The Kampachi Kasu was still pretty awesome though!
So, I have fallen in love with this fish cooked, and raw. My favorite? Raw, any day of the week. But heck, that isn’t too surprising, and I don’t think many people would argue with me!
For the 3 dishes use just over 1lb of Kampachi for two people.
Kampachi Sake Kasu, wilted pea shoots
Sake Kasu the sediment of sake – a by product of the sake making process. You can by this as a paste as most Asian supermarkets. In Seattle, Uwajimaya’s has it, along with Kampachi.
2Kampachi Fillets – trimmed into neat sections, skin removed
5 tablespoons of Sake Kasu paste
Pea shoots (optional – for presentation)
I trimmed off the belly flap here, and saved that for the fish balls. It makes for a neater presentation, and a more uniform thickness of fillet – which means one area doesn’t get overcooked.
Start by marinating the Kampachi fillets – rub salt into the kampachi fillets, let sit covered in the fridge for 4 hours or longer. Remove from the fridge, rinse, and pat dry with paper towel. Cover the fish with the sake kasu paste – rubbing it into the fish. Cover again, and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
About 20 minutes before you are ready to cook the fish, remove the fish from the marinade and brush off any excess marinade from the fish.
Preheat a grill or BBQ to high. Grill the fish on both sides for about 5 minutes a side – or until browned and just cooked through.
If you are cooking the pea shoots, heat a wok over a high heat. When very hot, add a splash of sesame oil, and then add in the pea shoots. Stir fry for just a couple of seconds until just wilted.
Arrange the pea shoots on a plate, and top with sake kasu. Serve with soy sauce sweetened with honey if desired.
Kampachi fish balls, apriplum dipping sauce
An apriplum is a new one on me. It looks like and apricot, but tastes pretty much like a plum. This wasn’t my first choice of fruit for the dip, but nowhere had plums, so I had to make do with these little darlings.
The meat balls are flavored with ginger and shiso leaf, which give them a really aromatic property. If you cannot find shiso leaves (available at most Asian grocers) then use a mixture of basil and mint leaves.
For the fish balls:
1 good handful of kampachi fillet finely diced
Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
3 shiso leaves, finely sliced
3 shallots, finely chopped
sesame oil for frying
For the apriplum dip:
1 star anise
1 thumb sized piece of ginger – grated
2 tablespoons of water
1 small handful of chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons of sugar
Start by making the apriplum dip. Cut a ring around the apriplum, all the way to the stone. Twist one side off. Cut into a dice. Remove the stone from the other half, and dice the same way. You can leave the skin on. Do this for all the apriplums.
In a saucepan over a low/medium heat add a splash of olive oil. Add in the star anise and ginger, and saute for a minute. Now add the apriplums, water and sugar. Bring to the boil, then let simmer with a lid just on for about 20 minutes, until thickened. Remove from the heat.
Put some ice in your sink, and cover with about an inch of water. Pour the apriplum sauce into a bowl, and float that in the ice cold water. This will cool the sauce down quickly. Remove the star anise. Mix in the fresh cilantro.
To make the fish balls combine everything in a bowl (except the oil). Using your hands mold small amounts into balls. The size is up to you, but I prefer to make smaller ones. Refrigerate covered until needed.
To cook the fish balls. Heat a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil in a wok until really hot (almost smoking). Gently add the fish balls. Let them cook for a couple of minutes on one side, then flip them. Flip them until all sides are browned. Drain on a paper towel.
Serve with the dipping sauce.
Two thin slices of kampachi fillet
1/4 cup sushi rice
1 teaspoon of seasoned rice wine vinegar
Nori sheet (optional)
Cook the sushi rice according to the bag directions (normally simmer in water for 20 minutes, then let stand for 10). When cooked gently mix in the rice wine vinegar. Allow to cool.
Cut a nori sheet into a thin slice – about 1/4″ thick.
In a non-stick pan, or really well seasoned wok heat the sesame oil until really hot. Add the kampachi slices and cook for maybe 10 seconds a side, until just browned on the edges.
Using wet hands form a small cylinder of sushi rice. Place the fish on top. Gently wrap the sashimi with the strip of nori, making sure the seam is on the bottom (out of sight).
Serve on a shiso leaf.
So that is the three. I served this with some great stir-fried vegetables – green beans, shallots and some awesome baby eggplant – all cooked with a little ginger, and yes more shiso leaves chucked in at the end.