Fish Files: Kanpachi Amberjack

At RŌNIN, we pride ourselves on following the Japanese tradition of eating fresh and seasonally. Every morning our Chefs go to the market to pick up ingredients for the daily menu and our seafood is either local or flown in from Japan. We’re meticulous with our fish preparation and passionate about understanding their flavor profiles and where they come from. Learn more about the fish that we serve in our series, Fish Files.Kanpachi Amberjack (かんぱち) (章紅魚) - Kanpachi is from the same genus as the Yellowtail but the two species are slightly different. This fish is native to the waters of the Pacific Northwest; however, it is rare to find in the wild and they're usually farmed. Kanpachi can grow up to six feet long but are usually caught at a smaller size and are best enjoyed during the autumn and winter months.Kanpachi is a versatile white fish that is high in omega-3s and other fatty acids. It has a balanced, mellow taste and a low mercury content. Its meat ranges from a translucent white to pink hue and it can be served as sashimi, sushi, grilled, deep-fried, or simmered.

Fish Files: Sawagani Freshwater Crab

Fish Files: Hotate Scallop

Fish Files: Shirako Milt

At RŌNIN, we pride ourselves on following the Japanese tradition of eating fresh and seasonally. Every morning our chefs go to the market to pick up ingredients for the daily menu and our seafood is either local or flown in from Japan. We’re meticulous with our fish preparation and passionate about understanding their flavor profiles and where they come from. Learn more about the fish that we serve in our series, Fish Files.Shirako (白子) (しらこ) Milt – Shirako is a winter delicacy that can bring a range of emotions to different people. More widely known as milt or the male fish sperm sack, shirako is the male equivalent of roe or caviar, taken from fish such as cod (tara), blowfish (fugu), and seabream (tai). December is the best time for gathering shirako.In raw form, shirako looks similar to some dairy products, with brain-like lines and curves. It is soft and sweet with a texture similar to custard that firms up when cooked. It is usually served raw with Japanese citrus, lightly cooked in hot water, or as tempura.

New Year, New Year's Sake

It's a new year and we're happily following the Japanese New Year's tradition of drinking o-toso (屠蘇), an herb-infused sake enjoyed on New Year's Day. This spiced sake is created by steeping different herbs and spices such as sansho pepper, dried ginger, and rhubarb, in sake for several hours. The result is a strong, medicinal tasting concoction that is said to ward off evil spirits and any bad luck from the previous year.The origin of o-toso comes from China and it was originally made using a mixture of eight herbs. This tradition stemmed from the Tang Dynasty and was later adopted by Japanese aristocrats with the tradition traveling to Japan around the Meiji Era.O-toso is traditionally served from a kyusu instead of a tokkuri, which is similar to a tea pot. It is poured into three cups that are stacked on top of one another and then shared among family members. In the early days, the head of the household would take the first drink on New Year's Day but the custom has since changed and today, the youngest drinks first so that the joy of youth spreads to the older members of the family.

Keep Warm with Oyuwari

As Japanese whisky and shochu enthusiasts, we are no strangers to mizuwari-style drinks - a bit of cold water can be a pleasant addition to a specific dram or certain style of shochu. But now that the weather is cooling down, it's the perfect time to switch things up and start thinking oyuwari.Oyuwari (お湯割) means "with hot water," which is the perfect way to enjoy shochu and whisky during the winter months. When serving a drink oyuwari, hot water is usually prepared in a traditional Japanese teapot. It is then poured into a glass and the spirit is added afterward. The hot water helps to release the flavors in the spirit, adding intensity to the drink, and the result is a deliciously warm libation.The ratio of alcohol to water depends on whether you're drinking whisky or shochu, but 3 parts alcohol to 2 parts water is most common. Stronger spirits are ideal for oyuwari-style since the hot water brings out a lot of flavor, but it's never a bad idea to test out different combinations to find out what you like best! Let us know your favorite shochu and whisky to enjoy oyuwari in the comment section below.

Fish Files: Iwashi Sardine

At RŌNIN, we pride ourselves on following the Japanese tradition of eating fresh and seasonally. Every morning our chefs go to the market to pick up ingredients for the daily menu and our seafood is either local or flown in from Japan. We’re meticulous with our fish preparation and passionate about understanding their flavor profiles and where they come from. Learn more about the fish that we serve in our series, Fish Files.Sardine Iwashi (沙丁魚) (イワシ) - Iwashi live in schools and can usually be found dwelling near the tops of the water, which is why their iridescent skin has traces of blue color. With a relatively short lifespan, their ability to reproduce quickly accounts for their ranking as one of the most sustainable food sources. Iwashi have high fat contents, are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D, and have little to zero mercury levels. They are in season between summer and fall during the months of June to November.Sardines have long been a staple in Japanese cuisine. They have fatty meat which spoils quickly and, therefore, are rarely served raw. Iwashi can be salted to release their water content or pickled in vinegar to preserve the fish and add acidic flavors to the meat. Common ways of preparing Iwashi include pickling, grilling with salt, and deep frying.

Origin Stories: MSG

Monosodium glutamate (MSG), may not have the best reputation, but there is a reason why it’s found in so many foods and condiments - it enhances the flavor of just about everything. But what exactly is MSG, where did it come from, and is it actually bad for you?Glutamic acid is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid, and glutamates are what give food an “umami” or “savory” flavor. High levels of glutamates are naturally found in seaweed, corn, tomatoes, hard cheese, mushrooms, and many other foods known for having an umami flavor. Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid.While glutamic acid was discovered in 1866 by German chemist Karl Heinrich Ritthausen, MSG was first created in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese biochemist. Ikeda wanted to understand why dashi, which is made from kombu (a type of kelp) and katsuoboshi, had such a strong savory flavor that couldn't be classified as sweet, salty, bitter, or sour. This taste is now known as “umami.” Ikeda sought to isolate this flavor from kombu, which has some of the highest levels of glutamates of any food. He studied the taste properties of different glutamate salts: calcium, potassium, ammonium, and magnesium glutamate. While all of these salts carried the umami flavor, sodium glutamate tasted the best and was the easiest to crystallize. Ikeda named this product "monosodium glutamate" and submitted a patent to produce it. The Suzuki brothers began commercial production of MSG in 1909 as Aji-no-moto, which translates to “essence of taste."While MSG is generally recognized as safe around the world, there is a popular belief, especially in North America, that MSG causes headaches and other discomforts. This is known as “Chinese restaurant syndrome” as North American Chinese restaurants often use a lot of MSG. However, double-blind tests have failed to find strong evidence of this reaction. One of the last studies on MSG that gained attention was published in 2011, claiming a link between MSG and obesity, though those results have also been questioned. The general scientific consensus now seems to be that, only in large doses and on an empty stomach, can MSG temporarily affect a subset of the population. So while MSG is by no means a health food, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that it's not safe to ingest, especially in moderate quantities.

Fish Files: Uni Sea Urchin

At RŌNIN, we pride ourselves on following the Japanese tradition of eating fresh and seasonally. Every morning our chefs go to the market to pick up ingredients for the daily menu and our seafood is either local or flown in from Japan. We’re meticulous with our fish preparation and passionate about understanding their flavor profiles and where they come from. Learn more about the fish that we serve in our series, Fish Files.Uni (海膽) (うに) Sea Urchin - Uni is commonly referred to as roe, but it is actually a sea urchin's gonads, which are reproductive organs. Although there are many different species of sea urchin, this post will focus on Kita Murasaki Uni, which comes from Hokkaido. Kita Murasaki uni is best during the early summer and fall months and has a bright yellow color. Uni are omnivorous and can be found mainly eating konbu kelp.While popularly served as sushi and sashimi, uni can be mixed into a variety of dishes. For example, uni pasta has become extremely popular both in and outside of Japan due to its creamy texture and slight mineral flavor that's reminiscent of sea water.Food image courtesy That Food Cray !!!