Shusse-uo (fish that get promoted) plus yellowtail teriyaki


In Japan, some fish are called a different name depending on their stage of development. These fish are called __shusse-uo__ (出世魚) or 'life advancement fish'. The amberjack or yellowtail is the best known of these. When it's very young it's called a wakashi; a teenager (in fish terms) is a subashiri; at maturity it's a hamachi, and when fully mature and possessed of lots of fat, it's called buri. (These terms are what are used in the Tokyo area by the way; the names differ in other parts of the country, although the hamachi and buri names tend to be used nationwide.) Gizzard shad is another shusse-uo; tiny baby ones called jako or shinko, mature but still youn ones called kohada (popular as sushi or sashimi), and fully mature ones konoshiro.

This may seem confusing, but it does make sense; a young subashiri is low in fat and far lighter in flavor than a middle aged, fat old buri. While hamachi is good for sashimi, buri is far too strong in flavor to eat raw and is best eaten grilled or simmered. Shusse-uo are considered to be very lucky since they 'advance in life' as it were, so they are often served on festive occasions, such as during the New Year festivities.

Buri, or mature yellowtail, is especially delicious during the cold months since it has lots of omega-3 rich fat on it. The picture below may not be too inspiring since I er, burnt it a bit...but I have to confess that the burnt bits were exceptionally yummy, kind of like salty-sweet fishy caramel bits. This is best eaten warm, although it also makes a good bento item when cold. If you can't hold of yellowtail this works with any fatty fish such as salmon.

Recipe: Oven baked buri no teriyaki (yellowtail teriyaki)


Serves 2

The ratio of the teriyaki sauce ingredients - soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar is 2:2:2:1, so increase or decrease to match the amount of fish you have.

A note about substitutions: Whenever I feature a recipe that uses sake or mirin, someone invariably asks if they can substitute something for one or the other. You could try substituting dry sherry for the sake, but in this simple recipe there really is no substitute for the mirin. So if sake and mirin don't work for you for whatever reason you may want to skip this recipe. If you are on a low-sugar diet use a sugar substitute that can withstand cooking for the sugar.

  • 2 pieces of yellowtail, skin on, about 4 oz (120g) each
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

About 30 minutes before you will cook the fish, sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides and leave in the refrigerator uncovered.

Wipe off any moisture on the fish with paper towels. Combine the soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. Put the fish in this and marinate for at least 10 minutes (the longer you marinate the stronger the flavor will be). In the meantime heat up the oven to 220°C / 450°F.

Put a piece of aluminum foil on an oven sheet and brush with the oil. Put the fish in the middle in a single layer, skin side down, and fold up the edges of the foil to form a sort of wall all around the fish. Pour the marinade over the fish. Bake for 5-6 minutes, turn over and bake for another 3-4 minutes, until the fish no longer looks translucent when poked in the middle and the skin is a bit crispy. (Be careful, it can get to the burnt stage pretty quickly because of the sugar in the sauce)

You can also make the fish in a frying pan on the stovetop, over medium-high heat. Cook the fish first (about 5 minutes one side, 3-4 minutes the other) and add the marinade at the end. Allow the sauce to reduce until sticky while coating the fish.

Serve warm with plain white rice.

A bit of Japanese history regarding re-naming

Up until the end of the feudal Edo period in the 19th century, it was quite common for the names of males of the bushi (samurai) class, as well as academics of the bushi and shonin (merchant) classes to be changed as they went through significant phases during their lives. For instance the first Tokugawa shogun Ieyasu was named Takechiyo when he was born, re-named to Motonobu after his Genpuku (coming of age) ceremony at age 16, later re-named again to Motoyasu before finally getting to the name he's known as, Ieyasu. (He also changed his family name from Matsudaira to Tokugawa, but that's another story.) So many name changes were quite rare, but it was common for boys to be re-named after their Genpuku ceremonies. Girls didn't get renamed nearly as often, but some ladies who achieved a high rank, such as becoming a consort of an important lord, would receive an alternate name. This custom of renaming people ceased after the Meiji Restoration, probably to cut down on the confusion of all those different names for the same person.

Meat-eaters vs. fish-eaters

Although fish aren't re-named according to their stage of maturity in most western cultures, meat certain is - veal vs. beef, lamb vs. mutton and so on. This may be an indication that the people of Europe placed more importance on meat than on fish, and vice versa in Japan, but I'm just speculating. For what it's worth in Japan veal is just called koushi or 'child beef', lamb is lamb (ramu), and mutton is unknown.

Do you have such re-naming conventions for food in your country, other than the ones mentioned?

Filed under:  japanese ingredients fish japan washoku

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In German, young herring that have not yet spawned, are called "Matjes", from Dutch "maatjesharing". They are marinated in salt brine and eaten raw, often with onions.

Good article. I loved eating buri while growing up, but hardly see it around anymore. Now I understand why hamachi and buri are different but the same!

In New Zealand sheep meat has three names. Lamb and mutton, but also hogget, which is from a 1-2 year old sheep.

There is also whitebait, which are baby fish of lots of species. In New Zealand whitebait are of a very few species, but there are other whitebait all over the world. Not as nice as ours though!

(Reminds me of a Pokémon evolution chart)

In the UK, I've found that a proper butcher* (which is rare these days) would know what you're talking about with the later stages of sheep. Unfortunately here, lamb rules supreme and you'd have to hunt specifically to get mutton or hogget - but places with a higher concentration of immigrant communities tend to stock mutton.

* asked a 'butcher' about hogget; he thought it was pork. Talking to a properly trained butcher is to reminisce on meat/offal that's fallen out of fashion.

Mutton is also unknown here in the USA, at least from a supermarket perspective. Many countries label sheep meat "spring lamb," "lamb," or "mutton" to differentiate the different ages of the sheep--spring lamb the youngest, lamb up to a year (or two?) and mutton older.

But in the US, all sheep meat regardless of age is called "lamb." It has to do with marketing--no one wants to think about eating a stringy old animal, and the word "mutton" itself is never encountered unless you're reading a medieval-themed novel. So it all gets called "lamb" to paint a nice happy tasty picture on it and cater to a dumbed-down populace.

Your postings are so interesting. And with crisp, understandable explanations for those of us not very familiar with Japanese foods.
I'm curious whether you've seen the movie "Jiro dreams of sushi" and what you thought of it.

I have seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I commented on it a while back briefly on Quora, but I guess I should post a fuller review here. (Puts on my to-do list ^_^)

Actually, the English animal names (cow, calf, sheep) are Germanic (the Anglosaxons people raised them) and the meat names are French (bœuf, veau, mouton) because the Normans who ate them spoke French.

ALOHA Maki-chan,
Yes, in Hawaii names to change with size in some fish.
Jacks, when juveniles are called "Papi'o (Pah- pe-o). When they get over 10 lbs in size, they're called "Ulua" (Ooh- loo-ah). There are more fish with double or triple names in our Hawaiian language.
Take care and keep your prose flowing!!

That's quite interesting! The Norwegian language also names some types of fish according to their age or state. An example of this is the beloved salmon, or laks, where fish ready for spawning is called gytelaks, and fish that has spawned is called overstøing/vinterstøing/utgåer (the last word means one that will go out, i.e. to the sea again). Small, adult salmon are called grills where I come from. There are also local names on other types of fish, not to forget the importance of distinguishing between "normal" cod (torsk) and the skrei, a true delicacy! I do believe you are onto something about naming and importance in the diet. Norway used to have a very fish-based diet in the coastal areas (now we are rich and eat more meat, but that's another discussion!) BTW glad to hear that you are feeling better and blogging again.

In New England (the NE coast of the United States) immature hard-shell clams are eaten raw with hot sauce and called "littlenecks", whereas the mature version are called "quahogs", and usually used for chowder.

Just wanted to say I'm so glad I found your site! I'm living in Japan for grad school and I've been looking for some new recipes to start experimenting with. Can't wait to try my own teriyaki! I need to eat something other than salad with that delicious roasted sesame seed dressing! haha...

Sometimes I make fish like this, it's exceedingly simple (and maybe not gourmet enough for your tastes!) but it works on a night when I'm busy.
Soy Sauce, Mirin, Sake in a 1:2:2 ratio
Salt and Pepper
Allow fish (I use salmon) to marinate for about 30 minutes in the fridge (or as long as it takes your rice to cook). Cook fish in a pan lightly coated with oil. Add some of the marinade to the fish as it cooks.

Simple easy and I like the way it tastes. Maybe you will too! (:
- Gaijin cook

Hi Maki,

I'm glad that you're back to blogging - I've been following both blogs diligently and on really tired nights, it's usually your recipes I turn to. They are really delicious and some of them have become my weekly staple.

I have to confess that as a Malaysian Muslim, I end up bastardising half your recipes since I don't really take alcohol. When I read this recipe and you said that there is no substituting to mirin, I really wanted to try it. This time round I really put an effort to finding a non-alcohol version of mirin. With the popularity of Japanese restaurants growing in Malaysia, I had a hunch that there would be some non-alcoholic equivalent developed for this market.

To cut the long story short - I did find a mirin substitute. It's called Japanese Sweet Sauce - MF. It's made in Singapore under license from a Japanese company and has no alcohol. I'm sure it's not the same as the real thing, but I'm hoping it's a way forward to helping some of us taste your recipes as you intend it to be.

Fish is currently marinating in the fridge, am looking forward to dinner tonight!