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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ham-O

That's not cauliflower.
Global commerce has changed the culinary view of the world. Here in Houston, we readily avail of produce from Chile, or avail of Indian spices, while Washington apples and Campbell's condensed soups ("America's bechamel") are readily available in Southeast Asia. However, there are still many things that do not travel well, or perhaps only recognized as a delicacy in a certain region. Take this little item I picked out from a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in the Nagoya airport in Japan.

What looks like a blob of amorphous white mass is hamo, or conger eel. And we don't see this fish served often, if at all, in the US is the labor intensive method of preparation required. Hamo is notoriously bony, with a plethora of thin bones throughout the flesh. Thus, good sushi chefs employ a bone cutting technique - the filets have to be partially sliced in uniform millimeter distances, cutting the small bones into edible fragments. It's then simmered, which "blooms" the fish, before being finished with a blow torch (which are the char marks). The flavor is mild for an eel, specially if one is accustomed to the heavily sauced kabayaki unagi most think of when having eel in the US, but the texture is unique. The small bone fragments are definitely perceptible to the tongue, and with appreciation of the precision required, leaves one to quietly contemplate the work of an artist.

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