Ask anyone about sukiyaki, and most will nod knowledgeably and say, “Ah, yes, a famous Japanese dish.” Mention Uosuki, though, and even most Japanese will react with a blank look. Uosuki is a form of fish sukiyaki, a famous regional dish from the Osaka area that originated on fishing boats in the Inland Sea. Fresh catch was quickly cut up and added to a nabe (iron pot) of simmering stock that was sweet and salty (amakara); the stock was said to hide the fishy smell. Vegetables were also thrown in the pot, and a beaten egg was used as a dipping sauce. At the very end, udon noodles were added instead of rice.
Maruman Honke, an Osaka restaurant that opened in 1862, claims to be the only establishment to offer authentic uosuki. Located in the theater district until World War II, Maruman Honke became a favorite post-performance hangout for theatergoers. The restaurant’s huge communal room was raucous, convivial place where friends and strangers alike shared the large tables.
Today the restaurant is in a different area, and has the standard setup of a counter, tables, and small rooms for private parties. The uosuki hasn’t changed, though.
Here is my version of uosuki. I use a variety of ultrafresh fish and other seafood – oysters and squid, for example – for a more complex taste. Vary the vegetables as desired: Chinese cabbage, shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves), daikon radish, and various Japanese mushrooms all blend in well. The addition of sansho pepper into the marinade for the fish also adds an elegant and additional subtle layer of flavor to this dish.
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Uosuki: Fish Sukiyaki
- 2 lb to 2 ¼ lb assorted white-meat fish fillets, such as sea bream, yellowtail, or cod, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 medium or large shrimp, shelled and deveined, with tail left intact
- 4 hamaguri clams, soaked in cold water for about an hour to cleanse them, then drained and rinsed
- 3 cups cold dashi fish stock
- 1/2 teaspoon sansho pepper
- 1 ½ blocks grilled tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and a crisscross incision made on the caps
- 7 oz. negi (Japanese leeks), cut diagonally into 1-inch slices* Use white part only
- 1 large bunch of mitsuba, trefoil, slightly stemmed, washed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
- ½ lb shirataki (noodles made from devil’s tongue jelly), parboiled for 2 to 3 minutes, then drained and cut into thirds
- 10 ½ oz dried udon noodles, slightly undercooked, drained and then rinsed in cold water
- Cold water as needed
- 4 to 8 eggs
Marinate the fish and shellfish in the cold dashi-sansho mixture in a shallow container for one hour in the refrigerator before cooking. Drain and place the marinated seafood in a serving bowl.
Arrange the rest of the ingredients on a serving platter and place the platter on the dining table. Put all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the sugar dissolves and it’s hot. Adjust the taste as desired, adding more sugar or mirin for a sweeter taste, or more soy sauce for a saltier taste.
Pour half the sauce into the sukiyaki pan (or cast-iron pan), and then place the pan over a heating source and bring to a boil. Start adding a little of each ingredient to the pot and let cook over high heat until done. Dip each morsel into beaten egg and eat immediately. Continue adding the ingredients and sauce as needed. Add noodles to the pot toward the end of the meal, cooking only to reheat and eat.
If the sauce becomes too thick, add cold water as needed to thin it out.