Foie Gras of the Sea: Cleaning & Steaming Monkfish Liver (Japanese Ankimo) - Day 2

Monkfish liver, also known as the foie gras of the sea, is a delicacy worth exploring. Today, you will learn how to prepare this dish. To start, you will need a freshly cooled liver. Make sure to bleed it properly to eliminate any unpleasant odors.

Handling a sizeable monkfish liver, you’ll note that the preparation is best carried out in the sink. This is because the cleaning process is hands-on, involving removing the outer membrane and the veins which will get messy. Having the tap nearby is very convenient.

Continuing, you will learn how soaking the liver in salt and sake can further diminish any residual fishiness. This technique also serves as a preparatory step before the liver undergoes steaming.

As you acquaint yourself with these methods, keep in mind that potential aromatic additions, like ginger or chives, can be steamed alongside to further neutralize any lingering scents and enrich the final taste.

Key Takeaways

  • Properly clean and bleed the liver to minimize odors and prepare it for cooking.
  • Salt and sake are crucial for marinating the liver, improving taste, and reducing fishiness.
  • Rolling and steaming the liver is a delicate process that results in its signature texture.

Cleaning the Monkfish Liver

To begin the preparation, you’ll need to let the liver bleed out in a cooling environment for a significant period. A couple of days is ideal, but a few hours will suffice if you have caught a fresh monkfish. If the liver is bought from a market, it’s usually ready for immediate use.

Initial Cleaning Steps:

  • Rinse the liver to remove any excess blood and slime.

Removing the Membrane:

  • Start by peeling off the membrane with your fingers.
  • It’s easier to remove the membrane when the liver is very cold. So, keep it in ice-cold water until you’re ready to handle it as the membrane is easier to peel off from a cold liver than a warm one.

Vein Removal:

  1. Identify veins attached to the membrane and begin to extract them.
  2. Using a knife can help remove the tougher veins more aesthetically.
  3. Focus on exterior veins as interior ones are difficult to eradicate without damaging the liver.
  4. Continue until you are satisfied with the cleaning, leaving some small, less troublesome veins if necessary.

Soaking the Liver:

  • Place the cleaned liver in a plastic bag.
  • Add one to two tablespoons of salt as a starting point.
  • Pour in enough sake to submerge the liver completely. If sake isn’t an option, use vinegar or a mix of milk with a little vinegar.
  • Seal the bag and let the liver soak.
  • Adjust the soaking time based on the liver’s smell—less time for a milder smell or more if the liver is particularly odorous.
  • After soaking, usually for 30 minutes is my preference, remove and rinse the liver if the soak drew out additional blood.

Wrapping the Liver for Steaming

Steaming is one of my favorite ways to cook monkfish liver. It is quick and you don’t need any other ingredients for the liver.

The steamed liver is soft, and reminds me of Créme Brûlée in its’ texture, it has a mild seafood taste and goes great with Japanese Ponzu sauce and grated daikon with a sprinkling of chili powder on top.

Here’s how you steam it:

  • Preheat some water in a pot.
  • Cut the liver into 6-inch long pieces and prepare aluminum foil for wrapping.
  • Roll the liver into tight, thin rolls about an inch or an inch and a half in diameter.
  • Make sure the roll is tightly sealed to prevent water ingress.

Steaming the Monkfish Liver:

  • Set up a steamer or use a colander in a pot with a steaming effect.
  • Place the liver rolls in the steamer, secure the lid, and steam for around 30 minutes.
  • If a fish smell persists, consider adding fresh ginger or chives to the steaming water as an aroma neutralizer.
  • Cool the liver down to just over refrigerator temperature before unwrapping the rolls as they are too soft when any warmer.
  • Serve with grated daikon and ponzu sauce.

Cleaned and Steamed Monkfish Liver

Torstein Rottingen
Here is a great way to clean and steam monkfish liver. This method helps remove the fishy smell from the liver as well.
Prep Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4


  • 1 Filleting Knife
  • 1 Steaming Pot Or place a collander in a large pot
  • 1 Aluminum Foil
  • 1 Plastic Bag


  • 1 whole monkfish liver cooled down
  • 1 cup sake
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 whole daikon
  • 1 pinch chili powder
  • 2 tbsp ponzu sauce


  • Let the liver bleed out in cold water for at least two hours if it is cut from a freshly caught monkfish.
  • While cold, place the liver in a sink and remove the membrane and outer veins. Using a knife to remove the veins makes it easier to keep the liver in one piece.
  • Place the liver in a plastic bag with salt and sake for 30 minutes to remove the fishiness smell.
  • Remove the liver from the bag, then wash and pat the liver dry.
  • Place the liver in aluminum foil and make a roll that is about 1-1.5 inches in diameter. I usually keep them about 6 inches long. Make sure it is sealed properly.
  • Steam the liver for 30 minutes. Optionally, add ginger and chives to reduce the smell of fish further.
  • Cool the liver to about refridgerator temperature before unwrapping.
  • Serve with grated daikon with a pinch of chili on top, and ponzu sauce.


Foie Gras of the Sea: Cleaning & Steaming Monkfish Liver (Japanese Ankimo) - Day 2
Keyword monkfish, monkfish liver
Torstein Rottingen


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