In Japan, some fish are called a different name depending on their stage of development. These fish are called shusse-uo (出世魚) or ‘life advancement fish’. The amberjack or yellowtail is the best known of these. When it’s very young it’s called a wakashi; a teenager (in fish terms) is a subashiri; at maturity it’s a hamachi, and when fully mature and possessed of lots of fat, it’s called buri. (These terms are what are used in the Tokyo area by the way; the names differ in other parts of the country, although the hamachi and buri names tend to be used nationwide.) Gizzard shad is another shusse-uo; tiny baby ones called jako or shinko, mature but still youn ones called kohada (popular as sushi or sashimi), and fully mature ones konoshiro.
This may seem confusing, but it does make sense; a young subashiri is low in fat and far lighter in flavor than a middle aged, fat old buri. While hamachi is good for sashimi, buri is far too strong in flavor to eat raw and is best eaten grilled or simmered. Shusse-uo are considered to be very lucky since they ‘advance in life’ as it were, so they are often served on festive occasions, such as during the New Year festivities.
Buri, or mature yellowtail, is especially delicious during the cold months since it has lots of omega-3 rich fat on it. The picture below may not be too inspiring since I er, burnt it a bit…but I have to confess that the burnt bits were exceptionally yummy, kind of like salty-sweet fishy caramel bits. This is best eaten warm, although it also makes a good bento item when cold. If you can’t hold of yellowtail this works with any fatty fish such as salmon.
The ratio of the teriyaki sauce ingredients - soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar is 2:2:2:1, so increase or decrease to match the amount of fish you have.
A note about substitutions: Whenever I feature a recipe that uses sake or mirin, someone invariably asks if they can substitute something for one or the other. You could try substituting dry sherry for the sake, but in this simple recipe there really is no substitute for the mirin. So if sake and mirin don’t work for you for whatever reason you may want to skip this recipe. If you are on a low-sugar diet use a sugar substitute that can withstand cooking for the sugar.
About 30 minutes before you will cook the fish, sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides and leave in the refrigerator uncovered.
Wipe off any moisture on the fish with paper towels. Combine the soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. Put the fish in this and marinate for at least 10 minutes (the longer you marinate the stronger the flavor will be). In the meantime heat up the oven to 220°C / 450°F.
Put a piece of aluminum foil on an oven sheet and brush with the oil. Put the fish in the middle in a single layer, skin side down, and fold up the edges of the foil to form a sort of wall all around the fish. Pour the marinade over the fish. Bake for 5-6 minutes, turn over and bake for another 3-4 minutes, until the fish no longer looks translucent when poked in the middle and the skin is a bit crispy. (Be careful, it can get to the burnt stage pretty quickly because of the sugar in the sauce)
You can also make the fish in a frying pan on the stovetop, over medium-high heat. Cook the fish first (about 5 minutes one side, 3-4 minutes the other) and add the marinade at the end. Allow the sauce to reduce until sticky while coating the fish.
Serve warm with plain white rice.
Up until the end of the feudal Edo period in the 19th century, it was quite common for the names of males of the bushi (samurai) class, as well as academics of the bushi and shonin (merchant) classes to be changed as they went through significant phases during their lives. For instance the first Tokugawa shogun Ieyasu was named Takechiyo when he was born, re-named to Motonobu after his Genpuku (coming of age) ceremony at age 16, later re-named again to Motoyasu before finally getting to the name he’s known as, Ieyasu. (He also changed his family name from Matsudaira to Tokugawa, but that’s another story.) So many name changes were quite rare, but it was common for boys to be re-named after their Genpuku ceremonies. Girls didn’t get renamed nearly as often, but some ladies who achieved a high rank, such as becoming a consort of an important lord, would receive an alternate name. This custom of renaming people ceased after the Meiji Restoration, probably to cut down on the confusion of all those different names for the same person.
Although fish aren’t re-named according to their stage of maturity in most western cultures, meat certain is - veal vs. beef, lamb vs. mutton and so on. This may be an indication that the people of Europe placed more importance on meat than on fish, and vice versa in Japan, but I’m just speculating. For what it’s worth in Japan veal is just called koushi or ‘child beef’, lamb is lamb (ramu), and mutton is unknown.
Do you have such re-naming conventions for food in your country, other than the ones mentioned?