Tells a story


Grilling a Whole Fish - Isaki

Posted on May 30, 2010 at 8:56 PM

Isaki (called Grunt in English) is scaled, cleaned and stuffed with tarragon.

I haven't grilled a whole fish in awhile, but when I saw this wild Isaki (Grunt in English), I could only think of cooking it whole. I couldn't see wasting any part of this gorgeous fish.  it was a rare find.  In fact, I have never seen an Isaki in Los Angeles, but it was waiting for me at Granada Market.  I wanted the fish but then I knew Sakai was leaving for his show in NY and it would be an awfully big fish if I had to tackle it myself.  Mr. Mukai, the owner, said, "It is in season. Eat it for good luck!" So even though this whole fish cost $30, I decided, it's cheaper than going out for sushi. I will cook it for lunch. Sakai will have some good luck, and I could use some luck, too.

Mr. Mukai goes to the central market in downtown everyday. Every Tuesdays and Wednesdays, fish come in from Japan. So if you let him know what you want in advance, he will try to get it for you. I have known him for more than 25 years, and he only recommends me fish that he think is fresh. Someitmes that freshness is good enough for sashimi; other times,  it's good enough for grilling. There are different degrees of freshness but in LA, getting any fresh fish is difficult, so I often buy fish from him, and know what he means when he says, eat it as sashimi, or grill it!  This Isaki was best on the grill.


Although Isaki (Grunt in English) can be caught year round, the best season for this fish starts when the rainy season begins in Japan and continues throughout the summer.  It likes warm water and they usually live along shore lines with many rocks. The meat is fatty, even though the taste is very light and delicate. I used some tarragon that I had left over from when I served Morel mushrooms.  The fish was delicious.  We ate it all.

Categories: Seafood

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