If you haven't read Acid Trip by Michael Harlan Turkell we suggest you do! He'll be teaching the Vinegar workshop at the festival next week and also you'll have a chance to snag his book! In the meantime, here's a taster from Michael for his recipe on Pickled Herring Battera with Acme Smoked Fish.
If you’re an American returning home from Japan, you’re either desperate for the taste of pizza or you’re desperately craving more sunomono. Personally, I fell in the latter category. Luckily, it’s not difficult to locate havens for Japanese cuisine in America. One of my favorite noodle joints in New York City is Ivan Ramen. The owner, Ivan Orkin, is a self-proclaimed half-sour (pickle) guy, whose favorite sandwich in the whole world is corned beef, pastrami, and tongue on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing.
Born to a Jewish family on Long Island, Orkin’s current status as a highly respected chef in the contemporary Japanese food movement in America would seem unlikely on paper, to say the least. However, Orkin reflects fondly and often on his decades living in Tokyo, where he established the first of his many Ivan Ramen shops. He told me he misses the ripening plums in April and the Japanese supermarkets, with their shelves of rock sugar and where barrels abound for home brewing umeshu, or umesu.
The recipe that follows is a perfect amalgamation of Orkin’s Jewish roots and his passion for Japanese cuisine. It calls for the fish and brine from Acme Smoked Fish, a New York City institution in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that specializes in appetizing seafood, and which on Friday mornings is open to the public. Note: A battera is a sushi box, named after the Portuguese word for “little boat.”
And a bit more about sushi in general:
Edomaezushi. During the Edo period in Japan, which lasted until the mid-1800s, raw fish was a luxury. Edo, the old name for Tokyo, was fast paced and growing exponentially, and many food vendors, from izakaya (gastropubs) to yatai (street carts), had little to no refrigeration. Ice was expensive, and spoilage was a serious concern, so much of the fish was cured. Some was simmered in broth; some employed the zuke method of immersing fish in soy to retain texture; and fattier fish, like mackerel (saba), spent time in a vinegar-and-salt solution, which its stronger flavors could withstand, in order to prolong its lifespan. This vinegar practice began even earlier, in the Muromachi period, which lasted from the mid 1300s to the late 1500s.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that a fast-food chain in Tokyo capitalized on modern industrialization and transportation to begin propagating the raw version of sushi we know now. At the time it was called Edomae, meaning “from Tokyo Bay,” where most of the fish was caught, but today, this type of sushi is more commonly known as nigirizushi, or hand-pressed sushi.