Dinner/ Recipes

Flying Fish Cakes: Cooking Yakushima Cuisine Part 1

18/05/2015 (Last Updated: 11/05/2018)

Flying flapjacks! No…fish cakes! This recipe is one to hone your filleting skills and create a deliciously easy meal too. Tobiuo is a Japanese flying fish found in the waters surrounding Yakushima, Japan. These crazy things have been known to fly hundreds of metres at a time; unfortunately for us we had left our baseball gloves at home and had to leave the catching to the local fishermen. Cooking them on the other hand was our job, and completely new territory for us. We hope you learn as much from this recipe as we did as the end result is so versatile, low in calories and high in protein.

While wandering through this beautiful island, not only did we manage to find some seriously good hiking experiences, but we also got to cook local organic meals with a chef who studied in Tokyo. How did this all come about, you ask? When planning the trip, our guide (Cameron from Yakushima Experience) mentioned that his wife Sato, apart from being an experienced hiking guide, was also a chef. Would we like to do a cooking experience with her? Hell yes! We jumped at this idea and couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen, learn a few new recipes, and hopefully pick up a few new techniques for us and you guys too. Little did we know what Sato would have in store…

Before we begin, here’s a quick link if you want to check out all the fun stuff we got up to on Yakushima. On the final morning of the trip we arrived at Sato & Cameron’s beautifully renovated home. The rainy, gloomy weather made it a perfect day to spend some time indoors cooking delicious food. We could tell straight away that Sato was really excited to cook with us and couldn’t wait to get us into the kitchen.

Over a quick cup of freshly brewed guava leaf tea (a first for us) we went through the recipe plans for the morning. The two dishes we’d be cooking that day were both ones we had never come across before. Best of all, we’d be using locally grown and sourced organic Yakushima produce, as well as a few goodies from Sato’s own garden to create both dishes.

Coming up first on the menu was a batch of delicious Flying Fish Cakes using fillets from tobiuo, the Yakushima flying fish. Next, we’d be whipping up Organic Venison Pate using liver sourced from wild Yakushima deer. Being big fans of fish patties we were very excited to get stuck into this one, but the liver pate? That one had us a little spooked. How would it taste? What would we eat it with? We’ll let you know in Part 2!

Introductions over, it was time to fillet the tobiuo. With a rainbow sheen to their scales and long, impressive looking wing fins, the fish were so beautiful it was almost a shame to fillet them – err, but how? We watched as Sato slowly and clearly demonstrated the technique of scaling and filleting with precision and skill that left us floored. Next, it was our turn to show off what we’d learned and each fillet a fish ourselves. (Eep!)

Lucky for us, fish cakes are a far fry cry from sashimi, so perfection was not essential. We did our best; okay it was a bit more difficult than it looked, at least for novice fish-filleters like us – but definitely a useful skill to learn. Sharp knives and steady hands are key! We think both of our dads, being avid fishermen themselves, will be very impressed when we demonstrate our newly acquired skills back home. But perhaps we might practice a bit in private first…

In the meantime though have a look at what we learned! Here is a step-by-step guide for you to try at home. Filleting doesn’t have to be hard, all you need is a sharp knife and follow these easy steps.

  1. Cut off the head diagonally from behind the wing fin, towards the mouth. Both sides.
  2. In a triangular pattern, slice off the lower, rear fins on both sides.
  3. Slice the belly open along the bottom and remove intestines/egg sacs.
  4. Slice down one side of the spine, along the top about half way through.
  5. Lifting the fillet with one hand, cut through the rib cage and remove the fillet.
  6. Feel the bones with your fingers and carefully slice off the rib bones.
  7. Feel with your fingers again down the centre of the fillet for a second line of bones and remove. (This step only applies to flying fish, not whiting and other common fish).
  8. You should be left with two skinny fillets from one side. Repeat steps 4-6 for the remaining side. That’s it, ready to be prepared however you like. See below!

Step-by-step guide to filleting flying fish by the Wandercooks.

While we were busily working away in the kitchen, the rain outside had transformed into heavy sleet, hitting the earth so hard and fast it looked like the garden was literally underwater. Immensely happy to be inside we merrily continued cooking in the quaint wooden home, Sato’s Jazz collection softly playing in the background.

Sato’s fresh organic vegetables were chopped up next; then thrown in with the fish, tofu and a few other goodies for a whirl in the blender. Next it was time to get the hands dirty once we transferred the mixture into a large bowl. Scooping up a handful at a time, we molded the mix into balls, before lightly pressing them into patties and popping them in the pan. Just fry them on each side for a minute or two until they are a deliciously delectable golden brown. Don’t worry too much about ensuring the fish is cooked all the way through, it’s as good sashimi-style as it is fried.

Fish cake recipe - rolling the mix into a ball.

Once done, serve on a banana or palm leaf if you have one available, or wooden chopping boards work just as good.

Finally the dish was ready for the table. Have a look at all this colour. Doesn’t it make you feel happy and healthy just looking at it? From the lightly fried sliced yellow zucchini (so huge we didn’t even realise they were zucchini), to the fresh garden salad and blended sweet carrot dressing, the meal was very much ‘eat as you want it’ in Sato’s words. Feel like a fish cake on a slice of fresh bread, maybe with a little mayonnaise, carrot sauce and a few cherry tomatoes? Go for it! How about adding a few spicy home-baked chickpeas to your salad. Bingo! We enjoyed it all over again with our little leftovers lunchpack on the ferry ride back to Kagoshima. What would you have with them?

We’d just like to say a big thanks to Sato for sharing with us her delicious recipes and getting us to work with ingredients we’ve never cooked before. This class went over and above our expectations; we learned so much about new ingredients, flavours and their applications. Not to mention using such beautiful fresh, local and organic produce.

While cooking sessions aren’t advertised on the Yakushima Experience website, if you’re interested in doing something similar when you head to Yakushima, feel free to get in touch with Sato at satono@yakushimaexperience.com.

 Don’t forget to check back for Part 2: Sato’s delicious Organic Venison Pate.

Yakushima Flying Fish Cakes

As fun to eat as they are to say! These flying fish cakes are quick to make and super healthy. Never fear, if you don't have access to flying fish this recipe is very adaptable so feel free to use whichever fish you have available, such as salmon, whiting etc.
Author: Wandercooks

Ingredients

  • 3 small to medium fish filleted
  • 200 g soft tofu
  • 2-3 spring onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 6 dried shitake mushrooms soaked
  • 2 tbsp miso paste mix of red and white is best, if available
  • 2 tbsp flour or potato starch
  • Sunflower oil

Instructions

  • Add fish, spring onion, ginger and tofu to a blender or food processor and blend.
  • Thinly slice the mushrooms and add to the blender.
  • Add the miso paste and flour or starch. Blend until smooth.
  • Remove the mixture from the blender. Separate into portions and form into a patty shape.
  • Heat the oil in the pan and fry each patty until golden brown and crispy on the outside.

Notes

Eat the patties as is for a delicious healthy meal, or get creative with your toppings and mix up the flavour. We recommend trying some with sweet chilli sauce, a mix or mayonnaise and bbq sauce or a sprinkle of salt and pepper. What will you try?
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks

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