All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Nanbanzuke / deep-fried fish in sweetened spicy vinegar

One of my mom's standard dishes to serve a bunch of people -- friends, relatives and neighbors regularly showed up for food, drinks and a chat at my parents' house when I was growing up. This is relatively simple, inexpensive and also satisfying because of being deep-fried.


Fish (200 g true cod in photo)
2-3 tbsp potato starch

For marinade
100 cc rice vinegar
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp dashi
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 red chili pepper (sliced)

1/2 small lemon
1/4 small onion
Oil for deep frying (not in photo)


Slice fish fillet at a slant.
Thinly slice onion, and soak in water.
Thinly slice lemon.


In a pot or heat-resistant container, put vinegar, sake, dashi, soy sauce, sugar and red chili pepper, and bring to boil, making sure sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and set aside.


Deep-fry fish.
Heat oil on medium high to high heat. When very fine bubbles briskly come up from tips of chopsticks when dipped in oil, oil is ready. The temperature should be quite high.

Coat each fish piece with potato starch, shake off excess starch, and slide into oil.

The fish should sink for a short time and then come up to the surface quickly (otherwise, oil temperature is too low and fish will be soggy and greasy).

 Do not crowd the oil with too many fish pieces.

When almost done, raise heat slightly, and hold a piece to be removed with one end still immersed in oil. This draws out oil and returns it to the pot.

Lift from oil, lightly shake, and place in a drain pan lined with paper towel.


Soak fish in the marinade while fish is still hot.

Squeeze excess water out of onion, add to marinade, and add lemon.

Mix, and let sit for 10-20 minutes before serving.

  • This is for immediate serving. If it is going to be served one hour or longer after frying, marinade should be thinner -- add more dashi and/or reduce soy sauce. Adding more onion helps, too.
  • White fleshed fish or "blue" (skin) fish such as sardines works best; also red/pink fish, such as salmon.
  • Boiling marinade ingredients together blends individual flavors and aromas, and eliminates the "edge" of each ingredient. But if you are in hurry or it is bothersome to go through this step, it can be skipped.

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