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Shirako Season

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Zenkichi  

It’s cod-milt season, and if that doesn’t put a spring in your step, you’re probably not from Japan, where cod milt (or, to put it bluntly, cod sperm) is considered a rare treat along the lines of sugar-basted grasshoppers and snapping-turtle soup. Not to take anything away from the first daredevil who tucked into a raw oyster, but he had nothing on the apparent lunatic who, upon encountering cod milt for the first time, didn’t recoil in horror but smacked his lips and said, “Let’s eat!” A typical serving of fresh cod milt is a solidish blob and looks a little like a cluster-bomb explosion in a bocconcini factory; either that or scrambled brains. When cod milt is gently cooked, its texture becomes even more creamy and custardlike. Cod milts season is now when it’s mature and at its peak, and most of what’s harvested in the United States is promptly exported to Japan, where it goes by various geographical aliases, including shirako, kiku, and tachi. Should you so desire, however, you can find first-rate cod milt in New York. The owners of Zenkichi, the mazelike izakaya that opened recently in Williamsburg, claim to be the only local restaurateurs trafficking in cod milt right now, and, really, why would they lie? They serve shirako two traditional ways—raw with some seaweed in a tangy ponzu sauce, or cooked to a melting, unilike consistency as tempura with a little dipping bowl of bonito broth. “Japanese people go crazy for it,” says owner Motoko Watanabe. “Americans seem to enjoy it, too.”

(Zenkichi, 77 N. 6th St., at Wythe Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-388-8985)


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