Top 5 Sushi in Spring (Mar. – Apr.): Bonito, Sayori, Firefly Squid, and More!
The seafood used for sushi toppings varies throughout the year. To get the best sushi, you need to know the best seasons and places to find certain types of seafood. This article will tell you all about what seasonal seafood to enjoy as sushi this spring!
When Is Japanese Seafood in Season?
Generally, seafood in Japan is thought to be at its best between winter (December to February) and spring (March to May). This is because most fish start spawning in spring, and in preparation for this, they tend to eat more. Fish also come closer to the shore while spawning, providing fishermen with a bigger haul, which in turn makes fish less expensive.
If you are eating at a counter sushi restaurant, the owner will tell you all about what fish is in season. Conveyor-belt sushi restaurants also often have extensive displays showing their seasonal offerings.
As a migratory fish, bonito comes into season twice yearly with the "first bonito" of spring and the "returning bonito" in the fall. Compare the refreshingly tasty and lean first bonito to the richer returning variety.
Schools of bonito swim north along Japan's Pacific Coast, so in March, they are mostly harvested in Southern Kyushu. By May, however, the biggest catches are in Central Honshu, where Shizuoka Prefecture is particularly well known for its large hauls of bonito.
Sayori (Japanese Halfbeak)
Sayori, with its long, slender, delicate white flesh, is also a fish used in sushi in the spring. If you want to try sayori, the large, thick and fatty kannuki variety is superb, if a little pricey. Large sayori were given this name thanks to their resemblance to kannuki, an old-fashioned gate or door crossbolt.
This fish is mainly fished in areas such as Ishikawa Prefecture, located in Honshu's Southern Chubu region on the Japan Sea coast; in Ibaraki, Chiba, and Kanagawa Prefectures on the Pacific Coast; and in prefectures facing the Seto Inland Sea such as Kagawa and Hiroshima.
Tai (Sea Bream)
The tai spawning season can fall between February and June, depending on the season. In the spring, tai is fattier and richer when caught in the early part of the spawning season. They are known as sakuradai, or cherry blossom tai, as this peak season coincides with the blossoming of cherry trees. While you will find cultured tai in many areas, a large number of wild tai are caught in Nagasaki and Fukuoka Prefectures.
Of course, you can simply have sliced tai on sushi, but other great options to try are kobu shime, which is tai sandwiched between slices of kelp from several hours up to a full day to enhance the flavor, and kasugo, or slices of tai fry finished with vinegar.
Shirauo may look like fry, or baby fish, but they are actually fully grown adults. These fish are harvested from Lake Ogawara in Aomori Prefecture, Kasumigaura Bay in Ibaraki Prefecture, and in the brackish water of Lake Shinji in Shimane Prefecture. When used in sushi, it's common to top nigiri sushi with a line of shirauo. You also often see them made as gunkan-maki (battleship rolls), or sushi rice topped with seafood or other ingredients and wrapped in nori seaweed. Bite into these fish and you'll notice a slightly bitter taste mixed in with the sweetness.
Hotaru Ika (Firefly Squid)
In Toyama Prefecture in the Hokuriku Region, nothing says spring like hotaru ika. They usually reside in deep waters, but move to the shallow coastal waters to spawn, creating an enchanting pale-blue luminescence on the surface of the water.
When made into sushi, the whole squid is usually used either raw or boiled. The rich flavor and chewy texture gives you a true taste of spring.
If you want to feel like spring is on its way, use your seasonal seafood knowledge to select the best items on the menu. Be sure to try out some of the delicious spring toppings mentioned in the article!
*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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