fish and taters: england got it all wrong.

frankly, i’m not a big fan of british cuisine.

as a quick disclaimer, i’m not making some sort of grand proclamation denouncing the deliciousness of all food served in the united kingdom.  britain has become a country rife with cuisine from all kinds of cultures, so much so that i have a few friends that joke about tandoori chicken being the national food of the uk.  i will gladly agree with any person asserting that britain has some really tasty food.

i don’t like british cuisine because, once you ask that person who asserted the deliciousness of british food to provide an example, the first thing they come up with is fish and chips.

not mince pie.  not bread pudding.  not kebabs or tandoori chicken.  fish and freaking chips.

most people i have talked to who cite fish and chips as the be-all-end-all of british cuisine seem to be oblivious to the fact that nearly every culture in the entire world has some form of fried fish and/or fried potatoes.  deep-frying, as a rule, was a method of cooking pioneered with the hope of turning cheaper, lower quality ingredients into rich dishes with a pleasant crunchy texture.  to make matters simpler, it requires only two ingredients: oil, and whatever you are cooking.

but i digress.  i didn’t write this blog post to extol the deficiencies of british food.  i wrote this post to inform the world (or at least pmk readers) that there are other ways to combine fish and potatoes.  fueled by a general dislike of fish and chips, i decided to find the freshest recipe involving fish and potatoes possible.  i sat back, popped on the old thinking cap, and let japan be my guide.

and i think i pulled it off.

at its core, my recipe is nothing more than marinated raw fish, ground raw potatoes, and boiled rice.

yamakake magurozuke-don (marinated bluefin tuna rice bowl w/ grated nagaimo)


you’ll need:

  • a 200g block of bluefin tuna sashimi (or any kind of red maguro)
  • 200g of nagaimo (also called yamatoimo)
  • six stalks of green onion
  • soy sauce
  • mirin
  • sake (japanese rice wine)
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • wasabi
  • japanese white rice
  1. if you have a rice cooker, get your rice going first (so it’ll be nice and hot when it comes plating time).  remember, rice can be poorly executed as well.  pay attention to what you are doing or your whole dish can be ruined by the simplest ingredient.  i wash my rice three times with cold water, gently sloshing it in a circular motion with my hands.  make sure to pay attention to your water to dry rice ratio.  too much water will ruin the texture of your rice, and too little will cause it to be only partially cooked.
  2. mix the soy sauce, mirin, and sake at a 3:2:1 ratio.  i generally use tablespoons.  you don’t really need that much marinade because you are going to be cutting the fish before marinating anyway.
  3. pour your mixture into a pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat while stirring.  once it reaches a strong boil, kill the heat and transfer the marinade into a metal bowl.  pop the bowl in the fridge and wait for it to get nice and cold.
  4. slice your sashimi.  the key to cutting sashimi is to use a really really sharp knife.  each cut should be made with a single, long, slow motion, unlike the sawing cut we so often use on raw meat.  make sure to pay attention to the grain and marbling of the fish as well.  cut the block into medium-thick pieces, probably about 6 or 7mm thick.
  5. once the marinade is cool, take a tablespoon or so out and set it aside for later use.  pop the slices of fish into the bowl containing the rest of the marinade, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it back in the fridge for 20 minutes.  do not overmarinate the fish or it will become tough and too salty.
  6. while you are waiting, cut the bottoms off the green onion, fold them in half twice, and chop them super finely.
  7. peel your nagaimo.  if you have gloves, i highly recommend you put them on.  humans become itchy when they come in contact with the ground flesh of the nagaimo.  the itch is a similar sensation to the one peaches impart on our skin, and it goes away after a little while.  once you have donned your protective gear, grind the imo using an oroshi board or microplane.  the resulting substance will look a little snotty and have a texture like very wet pizza dough.  trust me, it is quite tasty.
  8. mix half the green onions and your wasabi with the nagaimo.  reserve the other half of the chopped green onions for garnish.
  9. by now, your rice should be done.  use a rice paddle to gently fluff the rice, then scoop some into a deep bowl until it is about half full.
  10. spoon most (but not all) the nagaimo mixture onto the top of the piping hot rice and spread it evenly.  remember that marinade you reserved?  carefully drizzle it onto the nagaimo in large circle.
  11. next, lay the marinated maguro on top.  finally, place a dollop of the nagaimo in the center of the maguro and garnish it with the remaining green onions.
  12. sprinkle sesame onto the tuna in a ring around the grated nagaimo dollop.
  13. impress your friends and colleagues with your speed, efficiency, and profound understand of japanese culinary customs.  then invite them to stuff their faces full of amazing sashimi.

note: the nagaimo from step #7 is actually one of the only potatoes that can be consumed raw.  most others will cause some pretty severe stomach pains, not to mention have a pretty weird texture and earthy flavor.  you can find nagaimo (also called yamatoimo) in almost any grocery store in japan.

10 thoughts on “fish and taters: england got it all wrong.

    • i enjoy a good fish and chip as well, now and again. with the newspaper wrapped around it? very british.

      still, i have to say, fried fish is almost always my last pick when it comes to how i like to cook my fish.

  1. That tuna looks truly fantastic. I love this. Sadly, the Brits (I am married to one) are not minded to push the culinary boundaries. That said with the exception of a number of world beating chefs and some of the best bloggers around.

    • good point. there are indeed exceptions to nearly every rule. most brits (emphasis on most, not all) i know like what they like, and far be it for me to criticize them for their culinary decisiveness.

      however, i personally like to err on the side of inventiveness.

      thanks for stopping in, conor. i really appreciate it.

  2. I totally agree with you the Fish and Chips answer – all the Japanese people I’ve met think Fish and Chips is the only British dish and many of them think it tastes amazing (when it really isn’t!). I’m not really a fan of the fried stuff – give me your fresh maguro don any day!!

    • right on, olivia. it always feels great to get someone who is on the exact same page as you.

      yeah, some japanese people exemplify the classic “grass is greener” mindset. some americans think tempura is the best tasting fried food there is, and for every one of them there is a japanese person who insists tonkatsu is better than tempura any day of the week. i think, as a rule, we love what we can’t have.

      i try to stay away from fried food, especially the breaded stuff. low nutrition, high calorie, messy to make, and tough to clean up. no reason to go through the trouble.

      • hahaha, now now. i’m not denouncing all fried food. just fish and chips.

        hush puppies? battered and fried chicken? of course. i just think fish is probably better any other way than fried.

        and by the by, i still want a mini deep fryer. how awesome would that be.

  3. A very sweeping statement indeed – but I am not offended – you need to visit these shores to realise that there are very many fine traditional dishes such as Lancashire Hot pot, shepherds pie, pork in cider, black pudding and apples, haggis, rabbit in champagne, durham squab pie, beef and guinness casserole, venison pie, hundreds of stunning soups such as stilton soup or leek and potato. And frankly, nowhere on earth ever does fish and chips like the UK, others just mess about with it. The best things in life are left as they are. Not meddled with. Culinary boundaries ae being pushed but some folk just like stereotypes – thank God I don’t do that about Japanese or Chinese food? I am broad minded enough and do enough research to know that every country on god’s earth has something wonderful to offer in culinary terms.

  4. i agree with you 100%. i’ll admit, my posts can be somewhat hyperbolic at time.

    my intention when i wrote this post wasn’t so much to claim british fish and chips is “wrong” per se, or even that british fish and chips is worse than the fish of other culture. i only tried to imply a message similar to what you wrote in your comment: british food is more diverse and unique than people give it credit for. i honestly didn’t know enough about it because, for the longest time, the only food my british friends would lay claim to was fish and chips.

    plus, i just don’t really like fried food that much. fried food with a side of fried food just make me feel heavy. ;)

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