Turnip Sushi and Pickled Sardines: Fermented Delicacies of Kaga and Noto
JapanIn videoGuide to Japan Travel Food and Drink
Bitter temperatures and deep drifts of snow are par for the course during the harsh winters in the Hokuriku region of Honshū’s Japan Sea coast. The cold here ensures consistently low temperatures, fostering an environment conducive to fermentation.
The Hokuriku region has long produced fermented foods made with fish and shellfish. Kabura-zushi (turnip sushi), a traditional dish associated with Kanazawa, is said to have originated with a preserved food made from fermented fish and vegetables, which evolved over time into present-day recipes.
The dish is made with slices of salt-pickled yellowtail wedged between pieces of pickled turnip. Carrots and other vegetables are scattered among the turnips, which are then packed in tubs, with gaps filled with kōji (a starter stock for sake and soy sauce). The kōji mold breaks down the fish proteins, enhancing the savory umami flavor of the concoction. The mouthfeel of the turnips combines with the fat-laced umami of the yellowtail and the mellow flavor of the kōji to present a unique taste experience.
Konka-iwashi is the Hokuriku name for iwashi (sardines) pickled in nuka (rice bran). The cured fish is eaten lightly broiled together with the rice bran. Humid summers help with fermentation, and winter cold promotes ripening. This particular Noto climate is what gives rise to this particular dish. Fermentation, treasured and handed down for generations, is one secret to making life more enjoyable in places of heavy snowfall.
(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television. Banner photo: Kabura-zushi, a Kaga delicacy.)