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Columns

Trail Recipes

By Akira Suzuki

Finger Likin' Namero

2006
ISSUE
11

Ingredients

Raw sardines or mackerel
Miso paste
Onions
Ginger
Myoga
Green leaves

Japan has a lot of great camping areas near the ocean where you can rent a pole and fishing gear at a local shop, drop a hook in the sea and try to catch the evening’s meal. However, the size of fish you typically catch with rental gear usually limits the variety of dishes you can put together.

So this issue we feature a dish called namero that you can make with small fish such as sardines or mackerel. The name apparently takes origins from the word nameru (to lick) indicating you may find yourself licking the platter clean.

(1) Clean and filet the fish and mince finely. Dice the onion, ginger, myoga and green leaves.

Namero recipes were passed down among Boso Peninsula (Chiba) fisherman who appreciated the ultra-simple “chop and mix” style. The fishy smell is covered up by ginger, spices and green leaves, while the onion adds a flavor I personally like, although some would recommend scallions.

Cutting the ginger into long, thin pieces will help bring out the flavor, and it is popular to put the concoction atop a steaming bowl of rice. Some prefer to snack on the mix while having a drink, and others enjoy rolling it up into tiny balls, dropping it in ice water and downing the mix like a cold soup. Frying namero causes the dish to change names, becoming sanga, which is recommended for those not used to eating things raw.

(2) Mix the ingredients and dice with a knife until thoroughly minced (think “pound” rather than “cut”).

(3) Add miso to taste and continue “pounding” until finely minced.

Without wanting to attribute more sophistication to the dish than is duly warranted, if you were to replace the fish with raw beef, you would have steak tartar or the Korean dish yukke. If you were to fry it, you’d have yourself a hamburger. It makes it a lot easier to stomach when you think of it this way, right?