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Battle Juvenile Salmon - Fujii vs. Morimoto

Japan Air Date: 9/25/98

  Challenger's Dishes:
  • Salmon fin sake 
  • Matsumae pressed salmon (wrapped in kelp) 
  • Broiled salmon wrapped in a grape leaf 
  • Sailo stew (whole crab stew with corn, potato and fish dumplings) 
  • Ruibe (soft frozen salmon meat) 
  • Salmon rice
Iron Chef's Dishes:
  • Fried salmon wrapped vegetables 
  • Salmon salad 
  • Fish head milk stew 
  • Chian-chian broil 
  • Boiled salmon head 

Synopsis: There are some traditional Japanese chefs that disapprove of the style of Japanese cooking that has recently developed. They have banded together and are headed by Ota Tadamichi, who challenged (and beat) Sakai in battle octopus. Ota has named his group "Chef Ota's Party of Heaven and Earth." The 47 chefs have selected one man, Fujii Shuichi, executive chef of the Shogetsu Grand Hotel in Hokkaido, to represent them and battle against Morimoto.

The theme: Juvenile salmon is a bit of a misnomer for the theme ingredient. The salmon are actually young enough that their reproductive organs have not developed, so that the gender of the fish cannot be determined. It's found exclusively in Hokkaido and is very expensive.  It's also known as unisex salmon or young salmon.
The food: Actually, before I get to the food, I ought to say that Ota's group made a great show. All 47 of them marched in with banners flying (declaring that they were Chef Ota's Party of Heaven and Earth). It was an impressive line up.
The ruibe that Fujii prepared is apparently a delicacy and hard to get. So that the fish meat wouldn't be tainted by a metallic taste, Fujii used an abalone shell to cut the meat off the skin. He then froze the fish pieces and served them sort of frozen (soft serve salmon, if you will). This guy was very proud of his use of traditional cooking utensils and kept harping on Morimoto about his use of an electric rice cooker. He also was extremely disgusted when Morimoto used a hair dryer to dry out the skin of the salmon. The broiled salmon dish that Fujii made used shirako (salmon soft roe) which is not from the juvenile salmon as those parts are not developed yet. Fujii wanted to emphasize that the soft roe can be tastier than even the salmon meat.
Morimoto made some interesting dishes. His first dish had the salmon meat wrapped around greens in such a way that it looked like a carrot (with the fish meat being the carrot). I thought it was rather creative. He served it with a tartar sauce which had salmon bits in it. Kishi really liked the sauce. Morimoto's second dish used the fish kidneys and olive oil, The third dish was the one where Morimoto used his hair dryer. The fourth dish is a stew of some sort. It had the salmon in it as well as miso flavored vegetables, matsutake mushrooms and cheese. It looked like an au gratin to me.
The judges: Even though it appeared that Morimoto was being torn to bits during the judging, he still managed to pull off a win. I'm impressed. I also miss my subtitles. Only the actress voted for the challenger. I did notice quite a bit of nose wrinkling when she ate Morimoto's food. It is somewhat ironic to note that in the post judging interviews, the judges preferred Morimoto's dishes b/c of his creativity and the way he was exploring what he could do with food. That must have made Ota wince.

Judges: representative Kurimoto Shinichiro, actress Asagi Kuniko, actor Okada Masumi, food critic Kishi Asako.

Results: 3 to 1 in favor of Iron Chef Morimoto

Judges' Scores Total
Fujii 16 19 18 18 71
Morimoto 19 18 19 19 75

Last updated 6/13/00

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