What is Ankimo あん肝 【鮑】?
Ankimo (あん肝) is a Japanese dish prepared from the liver (kimo, 肝) of a monkfish (ankou, 鮟鱇). It is also known as umi no foagura (海のフォアグラ) and is a delicacy that is very much sought-after in Japan. Ankimo is served as a starter in upscale restaurants that serve traditional Japanese food (washoku), Japanese multi-course haute cuisine (kaiseki ryori) or sushi. For the preparation, the blackmouth angler (ankou, アンコウ) and yellow goosefish (hon ankou, ホナンコウ), which are native to Japan, are preferred. More and more, their European and American relatives are also appearing in Japanese kitchens.
Ankimo for Sushi and Sashimi
Ankou are large and unappealing but extremely tasty, especially their liver. Ankimo's taste is very rich, less like fish, creamy but at the same time very light and tender. The soft texture gives a velvety feeling on the tongue and the high fat content makes ankimo melt in the mouth. Ankimo is often served with grated daikon radish with chili (momiji-oroshi, もみじおろし), finely chopped Japanese bunching onion (negi, ネギ) and/or a citrus-based seasoning sauce (ponzu, ポン酢). Unlike most Japanese sushi dishes, ankimo should not be combined with soy sauce, as it spoils the delicate taste of ankimo too much. It should be served cool, but slightly above refrigerator temperature.
After the fish has been filleted, the liver is first rubbed with salt and rinsed with alcohol (sake, 酒). Carefully, the liver is freed from its large blood vessels, possibly parasites and membrane skin. It is then cooked in a cylinder made of aluminum foil. Ankimo is rich in vitamins, protein and minerals. However, mercury compounds ingested in the fish's diet also accumulate in the liver, so it is best to refrain from eating large quantities of ankimo.
Traditionally, ankimo is a winter recipe in Japan, outside Japan it is often to be found in high-class sushi restaurants all year round.
Characteristics & Ecology
Ankou have an extremely large, broad and flattened head with a huge mouth with strong teeth. The lower jaw, the head and body sides are lined with skin appendages. The upper side of the ankou is dark in colour, the underside is white. Since the ankou does not have a swim bladder, it is found mainly on sandy or muddy sea beds. Ankou are lurkers and ambush their prey. For this purpose they use a particularly long dorsal fin as an “angle”, in which they move it back and forth in front of their gullet. If the victim, hoping to make prey himself, now moves towards it, the trap snaps shut. By opening its mouth extremely fast the monkfish creates a negative pressure from which there is no escape for its victim. Large species also hunt larger prey such as eels, flatfish, rays and even diving seabirds.
Selection of relevant species
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The dominant method of catching anglerfish is unfortunately still bottom trawling. This type of fishing is harmful to marine habitats on the seafloor. This gives the otherwise delicious ankimo a morally bitter aftertaste.