Category: Preserved Fish
Shottsuru made with hatahata from the Gulf of Akita
Hatahata is the symbolic fish of the Akita Prefecture. Its images are used in local tourism promotion; it is in fact caught in the gulfs of Hatimori, Oga and Kisakata, but overall in the Kitaura region, in the city of Oga.
With hatahata, shottsuru, a fish sauce and traditional condiment of Akita, is made.
In the past, it was produced at home, but today, only a small number of shottsuru producers remain, among which, only a few still use the traditional method and exclusively hatahata and salt as ingredients (the true Akita tradition). Another obstacle to this tradition's survival was the drastic decline in hatahata in the 1990s. Already starting in the 1970s and 1980s, these fish were caught in abundance and sold at low prices for grilling or for conserving in salt.
To resolve the problem, Hideki Sugiyama, researcher at the Communal Center for Fishing Development, examined every hypothesis, in the end finding the only solution to be to close fishing for three years. The 1,000 fishermen from Kitaura, joined in a cooperative, were contacted and informed one by one and aware of the situation, accepted the three-year closed fishing (September 1992 to September 1995). In 1993, the Council for Hatahata Resources was formed to monitor the catch.
Even after the triennial hiatus, the council continues to observe hatahata fishing and to protect its presence in the Gulf of Akita. With efforts on the part of the fishermen and others operating in the sector, this variety of fish is gradually being recovered.
Hatahata is caught from mid-December to the beginning of January. To prepare the shottsuru fish sauce, freshly caught fish are salted and layered in a large container. After a year and a half of fermentation, covered and pressed with a weight, the liquid part begins to separate from the solid part (remains, backbones etc), which deposits on the bottom of the container.
The liquid part also divides into two layers; the transparent liquid that forms under the creamy opaque surface layer becomes the shottsuru fish sauce.
Five tons of fish are used to make 2,500 liters of sauce.
The fish sauce is traditionally used to flavor local winter soups (Nabe-ryouri): shottsuru-kayaki, fish soup and hatahata soup.
The current production area are the gulfs of Hatimori, Oga, Kisakata, expecially Kitaura area in Oga city.