By Lynnie Stein / March 6, 2021

Fermented Fish

Fermented water meats. Creatures of the Deep.

Bagoong, faseekh, garum, hákarl, jeotgal, rakfisk, shrimp paste, Nam Pla,surströmming, shidal, tepa, + many more fermented water meats.

Ceviche: marinated raw fish (Central and South America)

Sashimi: thinly sliced raw fish (Japanese)

Poke: raw yellowfin tuna or octopus with tamari, sesame oil, seaweed and chili pepper (Hawaiian)

Crudo: raw fish, lemon juice, olive oil and salt (Italian)

Poisson cru: raw tuna with lime juice, spring onions, coconut milk, cucumbers, tomato, and shredded coconut (French Polynesian)

MARINATED FISH

Dice fish and cover with lemon juice or diluted cider vinegar or a mixture of both.

Refrigerate overnight; add onion, cooked or raw, herbs and spices, and possibly some lime juice and zest or leaf or green skin of papaw / papaya.

Eat with vegetables or kraut salad.

Fish sauce, often referred to as “The mother of all condiments”.

With the explosion in popularity of Southeast Asian cuisine, fish sauce has found a way into many kitchens.

FISH SAUCE

6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

zest from 1 small lemon (optional)

3 tablespoons fine Himalayan salt

6 bay leaves

2-3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1 kg small whole fish (herring, etc)

1-2 cups clean (non-chlorinated water), as required

2 tablespoons sauerkraut brine OR 1 teaspoon additional salt

  1. Muddle the garlic and the lemon zest together with salt.
  2. Rinse fish cut into small pieces. (If they are too big, you will end up with lovely pickled fish, but not much sauce.)
  3. Toss fish pieces (including the heads and tails) in the muddled salt mixture to completely coat fish.
  4. Add peppercorns and bay leaves.
  5. Pack the mixture into a clean 1 litre Fido jar, pressing down on the pieces as you go to release juices.
  6. Pour sauerkraut brine into jar, then pour in as much water as needed to completely submerge fish but be sure to leave headspace at the top of jar, as the mixture will expand as it ferments.
  7. Make sure the seal is airtight and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days, then move to the refrigerator and let sit for 4-6 weeks.
  8. Double strain the mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth and discard the solids. Store in glass bottles in the refrigerator for 4-6 months.

SHIKORA

Shiokara most often described as “fermented squid guts”, salty and viscous seafood is eaten as a pickle in Japan. In Japan Shio means salty and Shiokara means the colour of the abdomen.

It is composed of shreds of meat from a sea creature (commonly squid) in a slimy paste of its heavily salted, fermented raw guts or the pulverized viscera of the animal.

Everything from cuttlefish to sea urchin roe to oyster to salmon to tuna to shrimp to sea cucumber can work.

If it swims – or even just hangs out on a rock or a ship hull somewhere underwater – and is edible, it probably has found its way into Shikora.

Here is how to make it if you have the guts for it …

The raw squid pieces are cloaked in the creamy coral gastric juices squeezed from the inner sack of the squid and are seasoned with miso, salt, fermented soy sauce, sake, red pepper, and yuzu peel or lemon peel and optional high quality dried kelp.

Black olives are also a nice pairing to shiokara. Often the salt is replaced with anchovies.

1. Clean the squid saving the kimo ‘liver’ (digestive gland) from the internals.

2. Remove ‘skin’ and slice squid body (and legs if desired).

3. Sprinkle with salt and leave overnight.

4. Pass guts through sieve.

5. Add sliced squid to pressed salted guts and leave overnight. If available, add thin sliced kombu (dried kelp) as well.

6. Add a small amount of sake and mirin for fragrance. Can also add miso, red pepper and yuzu or citrus zest.

7. Allow to ferment in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

I am told the taste of shiokara lingers in the mouth. One Japanese method of enjoying it is to consume the serving at one gulp and to follow it with a shot of sake.

FISH

In Northeastern, India, fish is mainly prepared by the Lotha tribe and is still a favourite food item of the villagers.

Small fish are used as whole and big ones are cut into smaller pieces. Fish is washed and put inside a bamboo tightly plugged with leaves and kept over the fireplace for fermentation Within a few days the fish becomes fermented and ready for use as a tastemaker for vegetable curry. However, the fermented fish can only be stored for a period of around one month.

CRAB

The black species of crabs with hard shell is preferred as it produces an aroma with good taste. Crabs are washed, hard appendages and entrails removed, ground and mixed properly and wrapped in banana leaf and kept over the fireplace in the typical Naga kitchen for a week to ferment.

On opening the wrapped banana leaf, it gives a strong inherent smell, and is ready for use in cooking or chutney preparation.

It is one of the favourite items of several tribes, such as Lotha, Mao and Angami.

Hákarl or more accurately, kæstur hákarl, is the name of an Icelandic dish. It is fermented, dried shark—poisonous when fresh. The fermentation process involves burying the meat of Greenland or basking shark in sand and gravel and pressed with stones for up to twelve weeks. The shriveled meat is then cut up and left to dry for another four to five months.

An extremely acquired taste, hákarl was described by the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he had ever eaten.

However, living with an open mind was among the many lessons Anthony Bourdain left behind.

Kiviak is a Greenland delicacy, made by wrapping whole small sea birds (auk), feathers and all, in sealskin and burying for several months to ferment.

Tepa (“Stinkheads”) Fermented whitefish heads, traditional food of the Yup’ik peoples of Alaska.

In Egypt, Feseekh (or Fesikh) fermented, salted and dried gray mullet fish is normally eaten during the spring celebration of Sham el-Nessim.

Rakfisk is a Norwegian fish dish made from trout or sometimes char, salted and fermented for at least two to three months, or even up to a year.

Indigenous to northern Sweden, surströmming is fermented herring. With the finished products aroma often compared to rotten eggs, vinegar, and rancid butter.

Due to the overwhelming odour of this fermented fish dish, it should be eaten outside.

Many cultures have favourite fermented dishes with strong flavours, aromas, and textures that have become symbols of cultural identity, however, people outside the tribe may find disgusting or rather repulsive.

Love and bacteria, Xo Lynnie

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