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【Hokkaido】Experience Ikura Making at the Home of Salmon

When autumn sets in, many people in Hokkaido buy sujiko (salmon roe) and then make ikura shoyu-zuke (salted salmon roe marinated in soy sauce) at their homes. The taste of the ikura may be different in every home, but there is a restaurant in Ishikari City – the home of sake (salmon) – where you can learn how to make ikura (salted salmon roe) from a professional chef.

At the local restaurant and guesthouse called “The Yoshioka”, you can make ikura using the roe of wild salmon caught from nearby waters. The experience package comes with a set meal of homemade aramaki-zake (one whole salmon preserved after marinating in vinegar), and you can eat your own freshly made ikura together with the meal, so it’s definitely a bargain.

Here, you can make not just ikura marinated in soy sauce, but also rare ikura sashimi (salmon roe sashimi). You won’t need to soak the salmon roe in seasonings, as you can enjoy its fresh taste right there and then. There are two flavors to choose from: wasabi-joyu (wasabi soy sauce) and salt. What’s even more exciting is that in all of vast Hokkaido, this way of eating salmon roe is only done at this shop!

Mamoru Yoshioka, the owner of this shop, will be there to support you as you try to make ikura sashimi. This shop will let you experience dissecting salmon and making chan-chan yaki (grilled salmon and vegetables), while serving fishermen’s dishes that have been passed on since ancient times.

Finally, you can see the sujiko, which is the main ingredient. It has a natural orange color (no coloring agents are used), and looks shiny. They apparently sterilize and freeze the roe of young and healthy salmon so it can be used all throughout the year.

“Lumpy ikura that has a hard skin uses the eggs of old salmon. Really delicious ikura actually does not leave skin inside your mouth. If you eat ikura at my restaurant, you’ll be surprised by how delicious it is,” said Mr. Yoshioka.

Under the guidance of Mr. Yoshioka, who doesn’t stop talking once he starts, let’s start making ikura! First, put some water on a tray and then dissolve salt in it to make saline water (brine). Set the special mesh of loosely woven copper wires on top of the tray. Split open the egg sack and flatten the sujiko from the tear on the thin skin, moving left to right. Place it on top of the copper mesh. The trick here is to handle the sujiko delicately, similar to the way you would hold a newborn baby.

Lightly press the sujiko against the mesh with your palm, and then grip the end of the sujiko with your other hand. Pull it! You will see the eggs quickly fall from the thin sack. It’s so much fun to watch. Even the beginner who thought about backing away in fear of the eggs getting crushed was able to peel the sujiko from the skin really quickly thanks to the original mesh.

Transfer the accumulated eggs on the tray to a fine mesh net, drain the water, and then put the eggs into two small bowls. The only thing that’s left to do is to season the salmon roe with wasabi, soy sauce, and salt while tasting it. Both incorporate Japanese sake, and have a refreshing taste.

What was most surprising was the softness of the ikura! Each egg melts like snow as soon as they enter your mouth, leaving no skin behind. The delicious taste of the sea’s bounties will flood your mouth, leaving you incredibly happy!

It’s the most delicious ikura sashimi that you can eat. Eat it as it is, or put it on top of rice. Even the salty aramaki-zake that came with the set meal was firm and had a deep taste. It is the best kind of food experience one can get!

At The Yoshioka, you can also order the Ishikari Yanshu Dainabe (prices start at 2,500 JPY) – a hot pot dish that is said to be the root of Ishikari nabe (salmon hot pot). However, reservations are required 2-3 days in advance. Ishikari nabe is made by cooking the ingredients while they are still raw. The main point in this dish is to make the soup stock using salmon, and then add the seasoned salmon and spring onions after they are grilled. It is a dish with rich and deep flavors that has a distinct aroma on top of the delicious taste of salmon. It is also tasty with freshly made ikura on top.

The Yoshioka is a place where you can learn how to make ikura from a professional, as well as enjoy salmon dishes to the fullest. This spot is also recommended for tourists, as when you stand on the Ishikari City-designated observation deck, you will get to enjoy a magnificent view of the smoothly flowing water of Ishikari River.

The Yoshioka ■Phone: 0133-62-3562 ■Hours: 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM ■Closed: Irregular days ■Fee: Ikura sashimi making experience: 5,400 JPY per person

The Yoshioka

24-2 Oyafune-cho, Ishikari-shi, Hokkaido

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 10.25.2017]

*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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