Category: Preserved fish
Salted Etari anchovies
The prefecture of Nagasaki is one of the most important areas for bluefish fishing, and has a long tradition.
The local population consumes large quantities of Etari (a dialect name for Katakuchiiwashi, or anchovies, Engraulis japonicus) which are plentiful in this area, cheap to buy and very nutritious. The name derives from the old word “Tarekuchi” (meaning dangling lip) for anchovies. The traditional Etari-based recipe is Shiokara (salted anchovies), an emblematic dish of local cuisine. In the past Shiokara made from Etari was the staple dish of the local population.
The most favourable period to fish anchovies for salting is from mid-September to December because at this time of year the currents are ideal for fishing and the anchovies are perfectly developed.
Freshly-caught anchovies are the basic ingredient for Shiokara: a period of fermentation follows, which lasts throughout the autumn. Traditionally the population in the fishing area began to make salted Etari around October.
The salted Etari are fermented in straw which is pressed down with a stone. The quality of the end product depends on the freshness of the anchovies and the microbial flora contained in the straw. The anchovies must be washed in seawater and scaled. Then they are placed in a traditional container, a wooden barrel called 'Taru', in alternating layers of fish and salt. Then they are covered with rice straw. A lid is placed on top weighed down with a stone, and the container is left for a month at room temperature to help the fermentation process. When a white powder forms on the surface and the brine starts to rise above the Etari, they are ready to eat. This is a fairly uncomplicated technique but it requires skill on the part of the producer. The flavour varies according to each family’s recipe and to the climate.
Producers use exclusively local ingredients, ie. anchovies from the bay, and natural fermentation. The product is similar to western anchovies under salt but differs in that the whole fish is used and is fermented in straw.
Today salted Etari is threatened with extinction and Shiokara production, which requires skill and experience, has fallen considerably. Fishermen with lampara nets in Tachibana bay and fishmongers in Minami-Takairai-gun continue to make Shiokara but only for domestic consumption. At present there is one producer still selling the product on the local market, one who only sells from his own shop and another who produces Shiokara only on request.
Supported by the Prefecture’s Research Institute for fishery, it is clear that Salted Etari anchovies contain 15% of salt, with a flavour defined as “Umami” – bitter-sweet – due to balance of acids and starches in the product (the major free amino acid in the taste Umami is the glutamic acid). Supported by the Prefecture’s Research Institute for fishery and so on, Slow Food Nagasaki is reviving this product with the help of fishermen, processors, restaurateurs and gourmets.