Broiled Fish Collar: It's What's In Your Bento Box

Before I complete my descent into Burgers And Dogs-land, transforming from a global food enthusiast into an obsessive patty-sculpter, sausage-sourcer, guardian of ketchup and mustard, champion of macaroni salad and other jobs one might have in Burgers And Dogs-land, I'd like to briefly talk about Japanese food — fish necks, in particular.

The Japanese eat a lot of fish. Some of it, the amazing primo stuff, is for sushi. Some of it is cut into fillets, some is for soup. And one piece, one very crucial piece, the piece that literally keeps the fish's head on, is brushed with sauce, broiled and totally ignored on the menu. This stops here. If you see salmon collar, yellowtail collar or tuna collar, you must order it. The style of cooking, shioyaki, or "salt-broiled," involves liberal sprinkling with sea salt to draw the moisture out of the skin and allow it to get crispy on the outside while staying moist and flavorful inside.

I have always believed that when consuming animal protein, the best stuff is near the bone. Picture oxtail and a chicken breast. Which one is near the bone, juicy and flavorful as all get-out and falls off said bone when prompted? It's not the chicken breast. Picking this flaky, insanely juicy fish off the collarbone is not only satisfying in a tactile way, but the flavor concentrated in those bones, the bones that make fish stock, infuse the meat closest to it as it's cooking. It's less fishy than a fillet, with more of the sweet, oceanic qualities of sea urchin or crab roe, and a delicate texture that begs for gentle, Operation-like plucking with chopsticks.

So what's this super-awesome cut of fish going to cost you? Fear not, dude who accidentally ordered way too much toro after realizing how insanely delicious it is after one piece, collar is and will always be one of the least expensive things on the menu. And as it's not that common for non-Asian folks to order, you just acquired a great new icebreaker to talk to that dishy waitress. I'm just full of advice today. Now, back to hacking apart giant gherkins with an axe, and other jobs one might do in Burgers and Dogs-Land.

More Japanese food for lunch on Food Republic: