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Fermented food in fishing villages
Heshiko(Obama City)
January 13th, 2017
by Takeshi Takashima

Fish inevitably spoils or goes rotten soon without stopping the bacteria.  Fermentation is one of the common methods to preserve fish for a longer time; e.g., anchovy from the Mediterranean, Stinkheads from Alaska and surströmming known as the smelliest fish from Sweden.

Fukui is one of the rice-producing regions in Japan and has fishing grounds along the coast of the Sea of Japan.  It effectively utilizes the great combination between fish and rice to produce fish fermented in rice bran, called “Heshiko (へしこ)“.

Heshiko is the traditional preserved food in fishing villages of Fukui.  Its coastline is “rias”, which has made them isolated.  Heshiko is the achievement from wisdom of local people, who have made efforts to ensure the food, especially in severe winter.  They enjoy eating Heshiko as sashimi (raw fish) or lightly grilled, usually with steamed rice or Japanese sake.

How do they make Heshiko in details?  And, is there any secret in Heshiko?

At first, fish (mostly mackerel) are salted down for a few weeks.  Then, they are pickled in rice bran, byproducts of the rice milling process, to be fermented for a year.  Yasuyuki Kosaka is a high school teacher, who studied the traditional recipe of Heshiko at Fukui Prefectural University for five years and found out its scientific mechanism.  According to his study, protein of mackerel is degraded into peptide and amino acids by lactic acid bacteria contained in rice bran, resulting the rich taste, mixed with acidity, sweetness, bitterness and umami.

Several Heshiko-based products are on the market as the local specialities of Fukui.  For example, according to Yasuyuki’s scientific advice, Takashi Kadono, a fisherman who lives in a small village named Yashiro (矢代) of Obama-City, makes 500 units of Heshiko by hand in a year.  His hand-made Heshiko are very popular and sold out every year, partly because of his own secret methods, e.g., “The amount of salt should be 20% of the weight of mackerel” and “Use only byproducts of pesticide-free rice.”

Heshiko can be made from other seafood than mackerel, such as squid, dolphinfish and pufferfish.  “Nuka-chan Group”, a local group of fishermen’s wives in Koshino (越迺) of Fukui-City, produces bottled Heshiko with olive oil, made from squid.

Heshiko is gradually gaining popularity among chefs and foodies in and outside of Japan.  Heshiko has a great potential to be applicable to various kinds of food, not only traditional Japanese food, but also European contemporary cuisine, such as salad dressing and pasta sauce.

What do you try to cook with Heshiko?   Any idea is welcomed.

【抄訳】

魚は、バクテリアの発生を抑制しなければ、すぐに腐ってしまいます。発酵は、魚を長期間保存するための手法のひとつであり、たとえば、世界には、地中海のアンチョビや、アラスカのスティンクヘッド、“最も臭い魚”と言われるスウェーデンのシュールストレミングなどがあります。

福井は、日本の米どころのひとつであり、日本海岸の漁場を有する地域。魚と米の絶妙な組み合わせを活用し、『へしこ』と呼ばれる、米ぬかで発酵させた魚が生まれました。

へしこは、福井の漁村の、伝統的な保存食です。リアス式海岸となっているため、村々は孤立していました。へしこは、とりわけ厳しい冬に食料を確保するための、地元の人々の知恵の賜物です。米や日本酒とともに、さしみで食べたり、軽くあぶって食べるのが、好まれています。

では、へしこは、どのようにつくられていくのでしょう。そこに、何か秘密はあるのでしょうか。

まず、魚(多くはサバ)を数週間、塩漬けし、さらに、米ぬかに1年、漬けて、発酵させます。高校教師である小坂康之さんは、福井県立大学で5年間、伝統的なへしこの製法を研究し、科学的なメカニズムを解明しました。その研究結果によると、米ぬかに含まれる乳酸菌によって、サバのタンパク質が、ペプチドとアミノ酸に分解され、酸味、甘み、苦み、うまみが混ざり合った、豊かな味わいになるそうです。

へしこをもととする商品は、福井の特産品として、いくつか市販されています。たとえば、小浜市の小さな集落・矢代で漁師を営む角野高志(かどの・たかし)さん(32)は、小坂さんからの科学的なアドバイスをもとに、年間500匹限定で、へしこを手づくりしています。「塩の量はサバの重さの2割とする」、「無農薬米のぬかだけを使用する」といった独自の製法により、角野さんの手づくりのへしこは、とても人気で、毎年、完売しています。

へしこは、イカ、シイラ、フグなど、サバ以外の魚介類でも、つくることができます。福井市越迺の漁師の妻らによる『ぬかちゃんグループ』では、いかのへしこをオリーブオイルで漬けた瓶詰めを開発しました。

へしこは、国内外のシェフや食通から、徐々に人気を集めはじめています。潜在的な可能性をまだまだ秘めており、伝統的な和食のみならず、サラダのドレッシングやパスタソースなど、洋風の現代料理にも、幅広く使えそうです。

あなたなら、へしこで、どんな料理をつくりますか。みんなでアイデアを共有してみましょう。


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