A festive day calls for Tai-Meshi (Japanese Sea Bream Rice)!

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Many countries have an iconic rice dish that often heap up a nation’s prized ingredients. Like Spain’s Paella, Turkey’s Pilav, South Korea’s Bibimbap, India’s Pilau, Japan has Tai-Meshi – Sea Bream Rice! I was inspired by this special rice dish at a friend’s birthday celebration. Tai-Meshi is served on festive occasions and becomes the centre piece at any table for all to admire and share. All my senses were being teased while it was being prepared. I could hear a gentle simmer and smell mouth watering aromas of fresh fish and steamed rice. After tasting it I could not stop thinking about this festive dish. Often when that happens I get inspired to make it. The passionate house cook told me Sea Bream’s colour red symbolises a celebration in Japan and we sure had one that night! While enjoying the dish I was advised there’s a Japanese adjective Medatai (pronounced may-day-taaai), which means happy, fortunate, etc. The fish’s name Tai somehow got associated with this word Medatai.  Tai is one of the best loved fish in Japan and is in season during Spring. The following day it was hard to find Sea Bream so I adapted the recipe by using baby Snapper, which I assure you still is delicious or oishhiii! I chose brown rice instead of white rice, squid and while in Spring could not resist adding chives with their blossoms. Like most communal dishes when you get served Tai-Meshi consider yourself fortunate, as it’s sure to enliven all your senses!

Recipe (serves 4)

  • 1 baby Snapper (around 600g)
  • 1 small whole squid (diced into 1cm cubes)
  • 2 cups of brown rice (well washed and let it sit to dry for 1/2 hour)
  • 4  cups of of fish stock
  • 1/2 cup of dashi stock
  • 1 spring onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 chive stems (fine chopped)
  •  3 chive blossoms (add at the finale)
  • 2 tbsp of sake
  • 1 tbsp of mirin
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 100g of fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp of rock salt
  • 100g of konbu (kelp)

Tips

After adding the stock and konbu, make sure to stir the sake (1 tbsp), mirin and soy sauce well. The remaining sake should be massaged all over the fish, then sprinkle the salt on both sides of the Tai. For extra flavour and sweetness, the fish is best grilled or baked for about 10 minutes or until you see a golden brown colour appear on the skin. The fish is then placed on top of the rice to cook at low heat. Wait until the stock has fully evaporated and the rice begins to crackle. This is to get the rice slightly burnt at the bottom which  is always an anticipated part of a rice dish like Tai-Meshi. Gently take the fish out and carefully break the flesh from the bone and put to one side. Check that there are no bones left in the flesh, toss back onto the rice, stir, add spring onions, chives and top it with the chive blossoms. Now close your eyes and enjoy!

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