Salt-grilled whole red snapper with Ponzu, simple and elegant, is a signature dish of Japanese cuisine. Grilling the fish with the bones intact adds flavor, succulence and juiciness to the flesh. If you prefer, you can cut off the head, but we love its tender parts, including the cheek and the insides. You can also use this grilling technique with whole sea bass, bronzini, sea bream, porgy, small grouper, dorade (also called Mediterranean sea bream) or other white fleshed fish.
- 2 whole red snappers (about 2 pounds), scaled, gutted, and cleaned
- 1/2 cup momiji oroshi, *
- 1/2 cup scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped
- 1 cup ponzu, divided between 4 small dipping bowls
- 3 tablespoons sake
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup lime
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 (6-inch) piece kombu
- 1/4 cup (about 1/8 ounce) bonito flakes (katsuobushi), tightly packed dried, shaved
- Lightly season the fish with salt all over, including the cavities. Let the fish rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Wipe off moisture that accumulates on the surface of the fish with paper towels.
- Cut a 1/2-inch-deep slit lengthwise along the centerline of each fish, from head to tail. Do this on both sides; the cuts will help the fish cook faster and make it easier to flake off the grilled flesh.
- To make the dipping sauce, divide the momiji oroshi and scallions between the 4 bowls of ponzu; set aside.
- Preheat a grill to medium-hot. Brush the cooking grate clean and oil it well.
- Grill the fish about 5 minutes per side. Flip the snappers with care—gently turn them with a fish spatula so they don’t break apart. When the fish are ready, you’ll see juice bubbling from the back, and if you peek inside the cavity, you’ll see that the spine and flesh near it will have turned white.
- Serve the fish immediately, accompanied by the ponzu dipping sauce.
Ponzu, Makes about 1 1/2 cups
- Add the sake and mirin to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, and let the liquid come to room temperature.
- In a bowl, stir together the soy sauce, citrus juice, vinegar, the 1/4 cup water, the sake mixture, kombu, and bonito flakes. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the mixture steep in the refrigerator for 12 hours, or overnight.
- Strain the ponzu through a cheesecloth or fine sieve; gently squeeze to press out the liquid. The ponzu will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.