For the New Year’s holiday the fishmonger supplies plump, large red snapper. Red snapper is celebratory, with red and white flesh the symbolic colors of celebration. We always order one and savor it over a few days and in many ways. On the first we celebrate with sashimi. On the second we grill the fleshiest cuts of bone around the fins, ribs, and cheeks. Each day the tips of our aodake green bamboo chopsticks fade drawing us further into the new year. The remaining fillet is sliced and marinated overnight in soy and sake. On the third day we celebrated with omedetai chazuke.
Chazuke is green tea poured over rice. It’s the ultimate Japanese comfort food, a sort of articulated porridge that warms the soul and fills the belly. In this gourmet version the marinated red snapper is placed atop a bowl of white rice, topped with a dollop of wasabi and heaped with koumiboshi nori. For Tai chazuke you want the tea good and hot to parboil the slices of fish and dissolve the wasabi. But very hot water is an insult to good sencha so we forgo the best grade of tea here.
Hanako has seen me relish more than one bowl of Tai chazuke over the but she is perpetually surprised at how much I love it. Chazuke is just so very Japanese, she says. But I love many things that are so very Japanese, including you, I reply.