Yakizakana (broiled fish) (焼き魚)
Yakizakana is a dish in which fish is broiled. It is one of typical Japanese dishes, and is served in a wide range of situations ranging from daily prepared food to those served at high-class restaurants. It may be specifically called in a 'food and flavor' format such as 'aji no shioyaki' ("aji" is a horse mackerel and "shioyaki" means to broil with salt) and 'buri no teriyaki' ("buri" is a yellowtail and "teriyaki" means to grill with soy sauce and sugar).
One of the features of yakizakana in Japanese cuisine is its use of direct fire, which dates back before the Edo period, when the method of broiling fish on a hot plate had not been invented in Japanese cooking. Broiling fish over a charcoal fire helps get rid of excess oil and moderately extract water from it by far infrared ray heating, making the fish crispy on the outside and tender inside. Professionals put fish on a skewer and burn it over fire. Use of fire over fish is not preferred for its extracting water from the fish. The roles of skewers include conducting heat inside the fish as well as forming the shape of fish, which is called 'odorigushi' ("odori" is dancing, "gushi" is a skewer, i.e., literally means "dancing and a skewer") because the fish looks like waving and dancing. Although rarely seen today, people broiling fish on a wire sheet over shichirin (earthen charcoal brazier) were frequently seen in many Japanese households until the mid Showa period.
If broiled on a frying pan, it is called differently, such as 'fish broiled in oil' and 'sautéed fish.'
If cooked in teriyaki style, it is called 'nabeteri' ("nabe" means "pan"). It is for the sake of this dish that most Japanese gas cookers have a grilling function. Yakizakana using inexpensive fish like aji, saba (mackerel) and sanma (saury) are the most common and traditional dishes served at home. In mountain areas far from the sea, freshwater fish such as ayu (sweetfish) and iwana (char), and shiosake (salted salmon), which is suitable for distribution, are used for yakizakana, while in areas where coastal fishing is active, inshore fish such as mebaru (black rockfish) and bera or kyusen (wrasse) are used. On the other hand, there are many cases where high-class fish such as tai (sea bream) and tachiuo (cutlass fish) are used and served as a high-class dish in the form of elaborately prepared food like misozuke (pickling in miso). Dried fish, as well as raw fish, is also often used for yakizakana.
How to Cook Yakizakana
It is a broiled fish that has been sprinkled with salt. Blue-skinned fish is served with grated daikon radish. To classify more specifically, shioyaki is the one in which fish is pickled in salt, after which its surface salt is washed away, then the fish is sprinkled with salt again and broiled, whereas shira-shioyaki is the one in which fish is simply sprinkled with salt before being broiled. Additional salt is sprinkled on easily-burnable portions such as a tail and a fin of the fish to keep them from burning, which is called 'kazarijio' or 'keshojio' ("kazari," "kesho" and "jio" mean "ornament," "makeup" and "salt," respectively). The ainame (rock trout), shown on the right, is a failed example of shioyaki.
Teriyaki (grilling with soy sauce and sugar)
Yuan-yaki (Japanese grill, using meat or fish which are marinated, impaled on long skewers and broiled over hot coals)
Saikyo-yaki (grilling a fish with Saikyo miso sauce)
Fish such as sawara (Spanish mackerel) is broiled after being pickled in saikyo miso (sweet white miso bean paste made in Kyoto). The fish whose flesh quality and flavor are not suitable for shioyaki is used for saikyo-yaki.
Kabayaki (grilled eel or similar long slender fish), which is cooked by broiling and dipping the fish in sauce alternately, can be referred to as yakizakana or a type of teriyaki, but generally it is not regarded as yakizakana and considered to be another type of dish.