Sushi is made with various ingredients, and some of these can only be eaten in specific regions of the country. Here are 5 of those regional variations.
1. Nama Shirasu Gunkan (Enoshima)
"Shirasu" is a catch-all term for dried and boiled whitebait. When they're still raw, they're called "nama shirasu," and since they go bad pretty easily it's best to eat them freshly-caught and as close to a harbor as possible. Enoshima, Kamakura, Shizuoka, and Awaji Island are famous for being great places to eat nama shirasu. They're smooth but with a satisfying chewiness. They have a fishy sweetness and just a touch of bitterness, so they're popular as a seasonal ingredient. To try a nama shirasu gunkan sushi roll, you can go to Enoshima, which is easy to reach from Tokyo. The conveyor belt sushi restaurant, Maguro Donya Miuramisakikou Enoshima Branch is highly rated. It's best in the spring and the fall, but it isn't available at all from January to March since it's not allowed to be fished during that period.
2. Rosy Seabass (Kanazawa)
Rosy seabass is a high-class fish because it isn't caught in huge numbers. It's found mostly in the Hokuriku area like Toyama and Ishikawa as well as the Sanin region like Shimane, but Kanazawa in Ishikawa is especially famous for it. It's delicious whether it's boiled or grilled. It's called the "toro of whitefish" ("toro" referring to the highest cut of fatty tuna), because of its high fat content and strong flavor. The melt-in-your-mouth texture is irresistible. You can eat it all year round, so if you go to Kanazawa you should check out Morimori Sushi, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where you can enjoy rosy seabass shipped fresh from the harbor.
3. Shinko (Tokyo)
"Shinko" refers to young konoshiro gizzard shad. It's only available for a short period in the summer, and Tokyo Bay, Mikawa Bay, Lake Hamana, the Seto Inland Sea, Osaka Bay, and the Ariake Sea are famous for it. The shinko caught in Tokyo Bay are of particularly high quality. Since they're small, one piece of sushi uses multiple slices of shinko. It's not often found in conveyor belt sushi restaurants, and the taste of shinko sushi made by a high-class chef is evident when compared to a less qualified chef. At a quality restaurant, the amount of salt and vinegar are perfectly measured to bring out the fat and flavor of the fish. You can expect shinko so soft it seems like it'll melt in your mouth. There are many restaurants in Tokyo that are fussy over their shinko, but Nihonbashi Kakigaracho Sugita is one that's especially high-rated. It's best to visit in early summer.
4. Whelk (Hokkaido)
Whelks are a type of shellfish, and in Japan they mostly come from Hokkaido. The whelks harvested in Erimo and Hidaka are said to be especially high-class. The chewy texture and sweet flavor has brought it fans that prefer it to abalone. You should try it at Sapporo's famous conveyor belt sushi restaurant Nemuro Hanamaru.
*Photo is for illustration purposes.
5. Glass Shrimp Gunkan (Toyama)
Japanese glass shrimp is a kind of shrimp from Toyama that's about 50-80mm long. It goes bad fairly quickly, and it can't be caught in large quantities outside of Toyama Bay. In recent years, preservation methods and a distribution network have improved, so you can eat it in other areas now, but if you want to truly enjoy glass shrimp you should have it in Toyama. The rich flesh is sweet and soft and you can eat it in tendon (rice bowl topped with fried shrimp), sashimi, or sushi. If you have it as gunkan sushi, the aroma of the nori seaweed goes perfectly with the glass shrimp! When you visit Toyama, you can go to Kaiten Toyama Sushi for fresh seafood shipped directly from Toyama Bay.
If you get the chance to visit any of these areas, please try their famous, regional sushi ingredients!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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