Cooking a Hiratsuka local fish box at the open kitchen

Though I live five minutes walk away from a fishing port, I don't have much chance to eat the local fish. Fortunately I got to know Fushikuro Chie-san and Tetsuji-san who works at Hiratsuka fishermen's assassination. I didn't know but actually it was possible to purchase a fish box directly from fishermen through the association. I was curious how it worked, so asked Chie-san to help arranging "an open kitchen" with the fish box.

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Hiratsuka fishermen's association

The Hiratsuka fishermen's office is located at the mouth of Sagami river. The fish market is opened quite early in the morning, the ships leave the port before midnight and return around 3 am. The fish box is packed with the landed fishes and kept at the association's office. We met at the office around 10 am. to pick up the box and actually cook and eat together on the site.

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I ordered a box for 10 people at 5000 yen. It was packed with more than 50 fishes of eight kinds, mackerel (さば), horse mackerel (あじ), Japanese barracuda (かます), Largehead hairtail (たちうお), Japanese butterfish (いぼだい), Amberjack (かんぱち), Striped Grunt (いさき), and Fistularia (やがら) !

There are two groups of stationary-fishing in operation at the Hiratsuka fishing port, and catch 553 tons of fishes last year(from 400 to 700 tons depends on the year). One stationary-fishing net can be operated by about five fishermen and can catch from a few to more than ten tons of fishes per a day, of-course heavily depends of the ocean condition. It is said that more than 200 species of fishes can be caught in this area.

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After being landed, 80% of the fishes are sent to Odawara and Yokohama fish markets. That is why we see fewer local fishes in the local town. The reason is that the bigger market place tends to offer higher average prices for sellers, comparing to the local market where is less competitive with limited number of buyers. But the Hiratsuka fishermen's association is trying to increase the local fish consumption, and this fish box is one of their trial started last year. A fish stand at the Katase Enoshima fishing port is another example of the direct sales which is subsidized by the local government to employ sellers at the port.

According to Tetsuji-san, the biggest supply and demand gap happens when some fishes are in the peak season. When they get a really big catch, they cannot sell all of the fishes through their distribution channel, and sometime they have to sell them as an animal feed at only 10% of the usual price.

As I heard these stories, I tought that the existing market place system was not particularly the best way to distribute fresh produces in the local area. A market place works best when there are large number of participants, and there are two ways to increase the denominator:

  1. Centralize the market to gather all the existing players and produces.
  2. Open the market to broader audiences, for example, from fishmongers to end users.

And obviously No.2 is a better choice to distribute fresher produces.

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Thanks to Fushikuro-san, we could borrow a community space on the second floor of the association's office. We could arrange:

  • a box of fresh local fishes,
  • a fish preparation skill and seasonal recipes from Chie-san,
  • a place to cook and eat together,
  • and a set of basic cookware, tableware, and condiments brought from my home

Although it was much more casual than a cooking class, we certainly aimed to improve attendee's skill and knowledge on cooking fishes, and more importantly, to share how and where to buy the most seasonal and freshest food in the local town. We named this activity as an "open kitchen", and are wishing to continue it to meet more people and food !

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The above was Amberjack sashime prepared by the professional, Tetsuji-san. Chie-san instructed other attendees how to prepare various kinds of fishes. 50 fishes were quite enough to let everyone practice several rounds. We discussed what to cook, search recipes on iPhone, and cooked sometimes together, sometimes solo. Chie-san acted as a great conductor to organize the place, and we could cook seven kinds of dishes in two hours.

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The tasty big lunch didn't consume even half of the fish box, and we could have souvenirs to go over the preparation practice again at home. This is what I cooked at the night, Grilled fish stuffed with fresh herbs and garlic Recipe by Jun Kaneko | Cookpad

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Thanks again to Chie-san and Tesuji-san for this great delicious opportunity !