Fermentation and the Food Culture of Ishikawa Prefecture
Ishikawa Prefecture’s fermented foods
Since ancient times, the human race has benefited from microorganisms by creating various fermented foods. Japan has internationally well known fermented foods such as soy sauce and miso, sake, dried bonito and natto, but it seems that with its hot, humid summers and cold winters, Ishikawa Prefecture has a climate that is particularly suited to fermentation. And indeed, there are many fermented foods in Ishikawa as well. Some of the most popular are introduced below.
“Narezushi” is made by salting fish, pickling it with rice, and then pressing it while it undergoes lactic acid fermentation. It is a food that represents the deep connection between Southeast Asian and Japanese food culture. In the Noto region of Ishikawa it is called “narezushi”. The fish used range from river fish such as dace and sweetfish, to saltwater fish such as horse mackerel, mackerel, hachime, salmon and small sea bream. People in each region use the fish that is most familiar to them. The head and entrails are removed from small fish, and large fish are cut into fillets. After 40–50 days of pickling, the flavor is absorbed, and the bones are soft. In some households vegetables are pickled together with the fish.
Like “narezushi”, fish sauce is symbolic of our connection with Southeast Asia. “Ishiri”, or “ishiru”, which has been made on the Noto Peninsula since ancient times, is one of Japan’s most well known fish sauces. It is made from squid entrails or sardines. Alternating layers of fish and salt are placed in a barrel, and left to ferment for one to two years. The liquid produced this way is used to flavor soups and boiled dishes. Despite the fact that a lot of salt is used, the flavor is sweeter than it is salty. This is because a lot of amino acid is produced during the fermentation process. The sauce contains balanced amounts of glutamic acid, which produces good flavor, asparaginic acid, which produces acidity, *** and alanine, which produce sweetness, as well as lysine and arginine, which produce bitterness. All of these elements combine to give the sauce a sophisticated taste. Because it also contains the antioxidant taurine and lowers blood pressure, it is attracting attention as a health food.
“Kabura-zushi” and “daikon-zushi” are representative winter foods of the Kaga region of Ishikawa Prefecture, derived from “narezushi” . “Kabura-zushi” is made by cutting turnip into round slices, which are pickled in salt. Salted yellowtail fillets are sandwiched between the pickled turnip slices, and pickled with a mixture of rice and rice malt. “Daikon-zushi” is made from daikon radish and re-hydrated dried herring. The fermentation process is affected by the temperature, and by the amount of pickling salt used, so it is difficult to judge the length of time for pickling. The acidity produced by lactic acid fermentation and the mild sweetness of the rice malt, combined with the flavor of the fish, make this dish popular as an accompaniment to sake.
Konka-zuke (fish pickled in rice-bran paste)
Pickling in rice-bran paste is one of the ways of preserving fish that developed in Japan, an island country with plentiful fish. This dish is made in almost every area on the Japan Sea coast, and it has many different names. In Ishikawa Prefecture it is usually called “konka-zuke”. The fish used include sardines, herring, mackerel and blowfish. The head and entrails of large fish are removed, and the fish are cut into three fillets. Small fish are salted and then pickled in rice-bran paste as they are. Blowfish are soaked in salted water, dried, and then pickled in rice-bran paste. In Ishikawa Prefecture rice malt is often added for flavor.