JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Aomori]
Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #17


Concentrated Flavor for the Ultimate Dashi


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Daisuke Nakajima / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.

Toshimitsu and Sanae Kushibiki are two of only a small number of producers who make dried sardines and anchovies the old-fashioned way, eschewing electric ovens to first sun-dry and then grill the fish over a charcoal fire. The full process is, of course, much more involved than just those steps, and the couple perform it all by hand, bagging thousands of the tiny fish each day from late summer to early December.

After sundown, the fish are dried over a charcoal fire until 9 or 10 p.m. 

A crew of six heads out before dawn. Together it takes them 20 minutes to haul a single stationary net. 

(photo left) Back at port after hauling three nets, the men sort their catch. 
(photo right)Gutting is done promptly, to keep the tender flesh at top quality. 

When done right, the Kushibikis tell us, the dried product will keep for several years. The method, known as yakiboshi, differs from the more common niboshi, by which the fish are first simmered before they are dried.“It yields a very rich stock,” they say. “Some customers report getting five times more dashi from fish cured this way. And yakiboshi makes a great snack, too—try it with mayonnaise!”


On fair weather days the fish are dried outdoors. Otherwise, they are frozen and later submerged in the sea to defrost. 

Care is taken to keep fish of the same size on one skewer. 

Toshimitsu and Sanae Kushibiki at the southwestern tip of Shimokita Peninsula.

◎Wakinosawamura Fishermen’s Cooperative
Wakinosawa Honson, Mutsu-shi, Aomori

(The Cuisine Magazine /February 2019)