I made Nanban-zuke yesterday with Pacific Ocean perch, leek, onion, carrot, green onion and celery, Mentsuyu, sushi vinegar and red chili flakes. The name Nanban-zuke tickles my curiosity. In order to understand Japanese cuisine you need to understand Japanese history or in this case a little bit of Chinese history as well. Nanban 南蛮 literally means “Southern Barbarians”. The origin of this word lies in China. Having such a large land there were many groups of people in China and the most powerful and reigning group called the indigenous peoples in the southern part of China as “southern barbarians”. Many years later when Portuguese people started to visit Japan in 1543 the term “southern barbarians” took on a new meaning. Portugal had already been trading with India and China and other countries in the Southern Asia, they could bring spices, cultures, people and languages to Japan but it is said they took japanese people as their slaves too. It seems like all Nanban-zuke recipes call for red chili flakes, often leeks, and it is a dish of deep fried fish or meat marinated in sweet vinegar sauce. It has many similarities Escabeche in Portugal.
It is just a dinner dish but can’t you see many histories behind this Nanban-zuke? At least, I do.