The Traditional Taste of “Tsukudani”
There are some places in the world where it is difficult for people to feed themselves for long periods of time. Preserved food has also been taken advantage of for a long time. Food preservation is to process food through fermentation, drying, or smoking so that it maintains for a longer period. Now you can find many kinds of preserved food everywhere around the world, which is what enriches everyday meals.
Here in Japan, "tsukudani" has been made a preserved food that is essential for people's life. A shop in Katagami city, Akita, has long cherished tsukudani, which is a preserved food made from the wisdom of the ancients.
It is Chida Saichi Shoten, a tsukudani shop that has produced tsukudani since 1897. Named after the founder Chida Saichi, the shop has been producing the traditional flavors such as products made from the fish wakasagi (pond smelt) caught from Hachiro Lake in Akita.
As well as maintaining the traditional taste, they also focuses on developing new products and deliver their sophisticated products from Akita to all over Japan.
The most important thing in making tsukudani is to select fresh and high-quality food materials, says Kiyotaka Chida, the president of Chida Saichi Shoten. That is what the company has highly valued for a long time. Food materials the experts caught are carefully carried to the shop and made into tsukudani.
In addition, high-quality ingredients that bring out the natural flavor of the materials and enhance umami are crucial in making tasty tsukudani. The company does not make a compromise on the crucial ingredients such as sugar, soy sauce and mizuame (sweetener) and always seek to make the best products.
Now they offer more than 40 products after more than 120 years of business. There are a lot of products lined up in the shop from traditional items to new faces.
Among those products, the "Tsukudani-yasan no Rillettes (Rillettes From Tsukudani Shop)" series is the bestseller. It’s made from domestic onion and flake tuna boiled together. And since it uses aromatized wine called Vermouth, you can enjoy this tsukudani with bread, crackers and wine, which is the feature that makes this product new and special.
You can enjoy the taste of all the tsukudani products in various ways — eat as it is, in rice balls, with alcohols, and so on.
Tsukudani cannot be made without the experts in this shop who hold an attitude of strong conviction toward tsukudani. It must be the reason why people in Akita love tsukudani from Chida Saichi Shoten.
It's hard to pick just one part that was good, cause it was a great tour. But I really enjoyed seeing the area where they were sorting and grilling the newly caught fish, especially since they had made the ovens themselves. Seeing all the different variations they had of preparing the fish was super fascinating and also tasting the newer products that they had developed that were a bit more western inspired was really cool.