There is something so exciting about buying something special, and rare, and fresh for dinner.
You bring it home, wrapped up in a disheveled little package….nothing like a grocery store package…but a package actually packed by a human being and not a machine.
Not a trace of shrink wrap to be found.
My kids could sense my excitement, and they swarmed around me when I returned from the Ginowan Fish Market with these “Gurukun” (banana fish).
My eleven-year-old son begged to be allowed to prepare them.
It’s exciting to have your hands on something that only a few hours ago, was swimming in the unknown depths of the sea.
And it’s important to appreciate practices, skills, vessels and people that brought these little fish to our kitchen.
Clearly, this was an opportunity my sons did not want to miss. That’s the thing about cooking with children – what you may see as a mundane task, they see as a fascinating opportunity to explore by touch, smell, taste and sight.
After the fish were rinsed in cold water, they were patted dry with a paper towel.
When working with a catch as fresh as this, less is more. We decided to stuff each one with some rock salt, some lemon, and some Chinese scallion.
Just a few pinches….
It will all fit in there, but only barely.
It wasn’t long before the other kids in the family wanted to see what was going on…
And soon my son had a full audience.
Impromptu cooking demonstrations are not rare in my house…
And it’s only natural that one of the kids would want to start photographing the entire process. Because, of course, they’ve seen me do it every day of their lives.
After my son stuffed the fish, we arranged them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper, and we added some lemon and scallion on top for good measure.
We took a second piece of parchment paper and covered our fishes.
And I stapled the two pieces of parchment together, creating a large packet where the fish will poach.
This will keep precious moisture from escaping.
We baked them at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes.
Be careful when you open the package, because steam is HOT. Believe me, I’ve been burned many times by steam. It’s always a surprise – how hot it is.
Serve each fish whole. To eat them, you need to first scrape the skin off one side, then carefully identify the skeletal structure, and eat the large muscles.
If you have little children like me, you must take the meat off for them. This will help your children a lot and it will also help you understand the anatomy of the fish.
And your children will be amazed at the gruesome remains!
Shannon Vavich is a baby-wearing, homeschooling, mama of seven who is also a chef and a freelance food writer. She follows her husband and his military career all over the world, and currently lives in Okinawa, Japan. She has a little dog named Paprika, and an Okinawan cat named Mochi. She wears red lipstick, likes nice shoes, and loves rocky road ice cream. She is currently writing a book on Okinawan and Japanese cuisine and cooking. More
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