When I moved to New York City the selection of fish at local fish monger disappointed me. I craved for extremely fresh fish (for cooking purpose), oily fish (sardine, mackerel, herring), locally caught fish and whole fish. In my second year in NYC at the beginning of May I was introduced to Shad. It was a flavorful fish with pleasant oiliness (but not as flavorful as my dear sardine or mackerel), and I quickly fell love with it. The season of Shad in the city lasted only few weeks, so Shad has become my May shun food item and enjoyed it in the next few years. Then, suddenly I stopped to see Shad at fishmongers. The reason was the ban of fishing for the species in the Hudson river. My love affair with Shad and Shad roe was short, so I forgot them completely until I spotted Shad and Shad roe this year at Citarella (caught in the south but not in the Hudson river, according to the fishmonger). I purchased it and cooked in half butter and half olive oil. The flavor of the fish was not the same as I remember. It did not have rich and sweet flavor. Responsible reason of poor flavor may be the time of catching fish. The same story is applied to skipjack tuna, katsuo, in Japan. The below is the second segment of the Shun story.
Shun: The Peak of Flavor – From Hiroko’s American Kitchen
“Our obsession with the concept of shun leads us to further divide the peak season itself into three subdivisions. They are hashiri, sakari, and nagori. Hashiri is the quality attributed to shun food products that have just come into season. These hashiri food items are usually smaller in size and less flavorful than later, at the height of the season. Despite these deficiencies, hashiri products fetch a high price because they have just come back onto the market after a full year’s absence. They are rare and exciting, and regardless of price, they attract ravenous “early adopters” who will pay any price to obtain these foods. An extreme example is recounted in “Katsuo Is Worth More Than My Wife” in my book The Sushi Experience. There I describe a famous story about a man back in the Edo period (1600–1868) who pawns his wife to savor the first catch of skipjack tuna.”