There is a wide variety of sushi ingredients, with many regional specialties. There are many fish that can only be eaten in specific regions! This is the third in a series of five select regional sushi ingredients in Japan.
1. Shishamo (Hokkaido)
Shishamo (Spirinchus lanceolatus) is a uniquely Japanese fish that can only be caught in a part of the Pacific coast of Hokkaido. Although it is commonly eaten lightly dried, it is also available locally as sashimi and sushi during the October-November harvest season. Raw shishamo has a pinkish hue, a soft texture, and is characterized by an elegant and bright flavor that is slightly sweet. It is available in some Sapporo sushi shops, but if you have time, we recommend going to Taihozushi in Mukawa, a famous area for shishamo. At Taihozushi, you can enjoy shishamo not only as sushi, but in various other forms such as tempura and grilled (limited to October and November).
2. Gasu Ebi (Toyama, Ishikawa)
Gasu ebi (Pandalus hypsinotus), a type of shrimp that Toyama and Ishikawa are famous for, is a rare shrimp that is not frequently seen outside of the harvesting regions as they do not keep well. Gasu ebi includes two types of shrimp, kurozakoebi (Argis lar) and togezakoebi (Argis toyamaensis). The taste is so good it's hard to imagine from its appearance! The sweetness and umami of the meat and its springy texture can be enjoyed particularly when eaten as sushi or sashimi. Gasu ebi is an outstanding item that many say is unforgettable once eaten, and can be enjoyed at many sushi shops in Toyama and Ishikawa. It is in season from early September to late June. If you want a casual place to try it, try the conveyor belt sushi restaurant in front of Kanazawa Station, Notomaezushi Morimorizushi.
3. Kue (Wakayama)
Kue (Longtooth grouper) is a fish found south of the middle of Honshu, the main island of Japan, that grows to approximately 1 meter in length. Although it is harvested in Nagasaki, Mie, and Wakayama, it is deemed a luxury fish as only a small number is caught and rarely found on the market. It is considered the king of fish in the Shirahama area of Wakayama, giving rise to the saying that once you eat kue, you can "kuen" ("no longer eat") any other fish. It is quite fatty but has a light and tasty flavor. As the supply has stabilized thanks to active farming in Wakayama, it is becoming more available at restaurants. If you are in Wakayama, we recommend tasting the almost mythical luxury fish, kue, at Kuetei, a famous restaurant that specializes in fresh kue.
4. Fugu (Yamaguchi)
Fugu (pufferfish), which is known as a premium food item, is the collective term for fish in the Tetraodontidae family. Shimonoseki in Yamagata is famous as the home of fugu. Fugu is highly poisonous so special knowledge is necessary to prepare it. Fugu can only be prepared by licensed professionals in Japan so you can enjoy it without fear. Torafugu (Takifugu rubripes) and mafugu (Takifugu porphyreus) are the two well-known types of edible fugu. It is generally eaten in stews, as sashimi, or deep fried. It is popular as a sushi ingredient, and in Shimonoseki, you can enjoy fuguzushi at a more reasonable price than in other cities at a wide range of venues including conveyor belt sushi restaurants and in markets. At Ikiiki Bakangai (open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays only) in the popular tourist spot, Karato Market, you can enjoy sushi and other dishes prepared using fugu as well as other seafood at many seafood stalls.
5. Sekisaba (Oita)
Sekisaba is a type of saba (mackerel) that can be caught in the Hoyo Strait between Oita and Ehime and brought to shore in Saganoseki in the city of Oita, and it has become a luxury brand. Since it is mackerel that lives in waters with fast currents and an abundance of plankton, it has thick, toned meat. It is characterized by a more substantial texture and a richer, fattier flavor than other mackerel. Since mackerel deteriorates quickly, it is generally used marinated in vinegar for sushi, but in Oita, you can enjoy it as is. Kotsukotsuan, a restaurant serving regional Oita cuisine, has fresh sekisaba delivered three times a day so you can have your fill of super fresh sekisaba sushi.
Wherever you go as a tourist, there is sure to be sushi prepared with unique, regional ingredients! Please enjoy a variety of different types of sushi!
*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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