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2.104 Engawa Nigiri Sushi

-Cycle 2, Dinner 104-
19 (Tue) April 2011

-Japanese-
Engawa Nigiri Sushi

* * * *

at E-Mart
[take-out]

-Seongsu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic
(though they ate other things)

First, a definition of terms. Hiramae, as it's called in Japan, is species of white flatfish that's often served raw as sashimi or nigiri sushi. The same fish is called "gwang-eo" (광어) in Korean and "fluke" or "flounder" in English. Though many Japanese restaurants in the States refer to hiramae as "halibut," the label is a misnomer: halibut is indeed a similar-looking if much larger flatfish but only a distant relative of hiramae; some of these restaurants reportedly do serve halibut, but then it shouldn't be called "hiramae" (see description of hiramae at sushifaq.com). Anyway, the muscular section adjacent to the fin of the hiramae is called "engawa," a perfectly apt metaphor derived from an architectural term that describes the strip of wooden flooring in front of windows and doors in traditional Japanese houses.

[photo courtesy of Wikipedia]

Engawa is my favorite type of nigiri sushi, as I mentioned in a previous post (see 1.254 Engawa Nigiri Sushi), and perhaps my favorite type of sashimi overall.

Unfortunately, because it's the fin section, and because hiramae itself is relatively small, each fish yields only a few nigiri-sized pieces. Thus, engawa can be hard to come by. At some opportunistic restaurants here, where the cut is popular among knowing patrons, it can be expensive, sold at a premium.

[photo courtesy of 6speedonline.com]

Fortunately, when it comes to eating raw fish or "hoe" (회) in Korea, gwang-eo is the most popular variety--bar none--which means that there's a lot of fish, and fins, to go around. But for some reason, mainstream customers don't really seem to dig the fins. So, at large scale supermarkets, the sushi corner will occasionally set aside the engawa and sell them together, at a discount, for the minority of shoppers who might like it, like me. Here, the package was just 9,900 won for 11 pieces, dirt cheap compared to prices as high as 5,000 won for a pair at those aforementioned opportunistic restaurants. A few years ago, I went to an all-u-can-eat sushi-boat restaurant just prior to closing time, where the chefs served the engawa en masse at the very end, begging us stragglers to finish them off. Yes, thank you.

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