Broiled Air-dried Pompano with Sesame

Mana-Gatsuo no Shōyu-Boshi

For centuries the Japanese have prepared oily fishes such as pompano and mackerel by marinating them in various combinations of soy and syrupy rice wine before drying them in the open air. This method of preparation seals in the flavor of the freshly caught fish, while extending its shelf life by several days. Although no longer necessary with modern refrigeration, succulent broiled air-dried fish remains one of the most popular dishes in Japanese homes today.

Ingredients

  • 1 pompano, about 1 pound, filleted (fillets about 4 ounces each)

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon mirin (syrupy rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • ½ small lime, cut into 2 wedges

Method

  1. With a sharp knife, make two or three shallow slits in the skin of the pompano over the thickest part of each fillet.
  2. Combine the soy sauce and syrupy rice wine in a deep glass or ceramic dish, and marinate the fish, turning several times, for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours if refrigerated.
  3. Remove the fish from the marinade (reserve the marinade for later), and place it skin side down on a flat rack, the kind you put cakes or cookies on to cool. I set my rack over a tray to catch any marinade drippings and place it in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. In my city apartment, that means the dining room table. Allow the fish to air-dry for at least 2 hours and up to 5 or 6 hours, until the surface of the fish is dry to the touch and no longer sticky.
  4. Paint the air-dried fish with some of the remaining marinade, and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the flesh side. Place the fish, skin side up, on a rack or disposable foil broiling pan. Preheat your broiler to the highest heat possible, and broil the fish 2-3 inches from the source of heat for 2 minutes. (The fish will begin to curl slightly.)
  5. Turn the fish over and continue to broil for 5-6 minutes. The fish will be a glossy, burnished color, the sesame seeds toasted, and the surface ever so slightly charred in some places. Serve hot or at room temperature, with lime wedges.

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