Located near the center of Japan's main island, Ishikawa is a peninsula with the Sea of Japan touching it on three sides. The region has been blessed with a richly varied terrain and an abundance of natural products. The Noto Peninsula in the north provides fresh seafood. Further inland, high quality rice and unique native vegetables are grown with strong seasonal associations. The pure spring waters of the revered Hakusan Mountain are used in many of Ishikawa's finest sake breweries. Ishikawa's celebrated produce and seafood, combined with generations of local culinary tradition have given birth to one of the most delicious regional cuisines in all of Japan.
Traces of Ishikawa's food culture dating as far back as the Edo period over 400 years ago can still be seen throughout the prefecture. Several sakes and long-established seasonings are still produced in Ishikawa according to the same methods that locals have been using for hundreds of years. Even now, traditional Japanese restaurants offer dishes from the famous Kaga cuisine, which is perhaps best represented in Jibuni, a stew of duck and regional vegetables.
No introduction of Ishikawa's food culture would be complete without a mention of its tableware. Wajima Lacquer, Yamanaka Lacquer, and Kutani Porcelain are all internationally recognized handmade crafts that are produced exclusively within Ishikawa by traditionally trained artisans. Kaga cuisine served on Ishikawa's elegant tableware is among the most authentic Japanese dining experiences still available in Japan.
More on Ishikawa (to external site)
One of the most enduring traditions of Ishikawa's food culture is the central role of sake. With high quality rice and fresh water, and over 35 local breweries, none of which use mass-production techniques, many of these sakes date back hundreds of years, making Ishikawa one of the premiere sake Regions in Japan.
Where to Buy
Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery
2-8-3, Ishibiki, Kanazawa
This mineral-rich sea salt comes from the Japan Sea at the edge of Ishikawa's Noto peninsula where the people of Suzu have been preparing it by hand for over 500 years. This handcrafted salt has a soft, luxurious flavor, and with its slightly sweet flavor, it is the perfect complement for sashimi, tempura or fried and grilled dishes. Suzu salt is also an excellent addition to soups, dressings and sauces in both western and Japanese preparations.The Japanese government officially recognizes traditionally prepared Suzu salt is as an 'intangible cultural product' of Japan.
Where to Buy
1-12-1, Nie-Machi, Suzu-Shi, Ishikawa 927-1325
Like "narezushi", fish sauce is symbolic of Japan's connection with Southeast Asia. Ishiri, or ishiru, which has been made on the Noto Peninsula since ancient times, is one of Japan's most well known fish sauces. Ishiri comes in several types and is made from either salted squid or sardine, in a fermentation process that takes up to two years to complete. Ishiri is sweeter than it is salty and is often used flavor soups and boiled dishes (see Ishiri Nabe). It has also been shown to lower blood pressure. And because ishiri contains several amino acids and the antioxidant taurine, it is attracting attention as a health food.
Where to Buy
Noto-Cho Societies of Commerce and Industry
TO-44-4 Ushitsu, Noto-cho-Town, Housu-Gun, Ishikawa
Hishiho(also spelled "He-she-ho") is a naturally fermented soy sauce, brewed with natural salts and only raw, unprocessed ingredients. Unlike the majority of soy sauces, Hishiho is not heated during the brewing process, which allows it to maintain a purer taste and a richer aroma than other sauces. Hishiho is specifically tailored to evoke a food's existing flavors, and it is especially good on other raw products like sushi, sashimi, or tofu. The naturally occurring enzymes in Hishino are great for making meat more tender and unlocking a rich variety of flavors.
Where to Buy
Yamato Soysauce & Miso
4 E 170 Oonomachi Kanazawa IshikawaPre 920-0331 Japan
Grown by local farmers in the Kaga plains for generations, Kaga Yasai is the name given to approximately 15 of Ishikawa's most distinct locally grown vegetables. These vegetables are well suited to the natural climate and topography of the reason. After countless generations, the carefully cultivated flavors have become central to the regional cuisine. The large, white Gensuke Daikon radish is used in many of Ishikawa's trademark dishes. Kinjiso, a leafy, purple vegetable specific to Ishikawa has a mild flavor and is often used to provide a distinct purple color to soups and other dishes. The local varieties of sweet potatoes, 'fat' cucumbers, eggplant, and lotus roots are part of what makes Kaga cuisine such a unique culinary experience. Because Kaga Yasai are all locally grown, not all of these vegetables are available year-round. Many of Ishikawa's finest foods make use of the seasonal character of these vegetables and are best enjoyed during specific peak seasons.
Narezushi ("nah-ray-zu-shi") is made by salting fish, pickling it with rice or rice-malt, and compressing it while it undergoes lactic acid fermentation. It is a food that represents the deep connection between the Southeast Asian and Japanese food cultures. Narezushi is sweet and mildly acidic and is a popular accompaniment to sake.
The fish used range from river fish such as dace and sweetfish, to saltwater fish such as horse mackerel, mackerel, salmon and sea bream. After 40-50 days of pickling with salted rice and malt, the flavor is absorbed into the fish. In some households vegetables (such as diakon radishes or kabura turnips) are pickled together with the fish.
One of Kanazawa's signature dishes, Jibuni has been a traditional meal in Ishikawa for generations. In Japan, Jibuni is often prepared at the table while guests drink beer or sake and talk before serving themselves from the communal pot. This is somewhat similar to other hot-pot (nabe) style dishes, but the cooking method is somewhat unconventional even within Japan. Jibuni begins with a starch-battered duck that is chopped, bound, and steamed. This is then added to the seasoned bonito broth along with several regional vegetables and brought to a boil. As with most of Kaga cuisine's specialty dishes, Jibuni is known for more than its savory and layered flavors and is meant to appeal to the nose and the eyes as well as to the taste buds.
200g Duck meat, sliced
1-2 Cups of Wheat or Buckwheat flour, enough to thinly coat the duck meat
1 Tbsp. Grated wasabi, to taste, mix with flour before coating the duck meat
4 Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
8 pieces Tofu skin (yuba), approx. 2cm square
100g Seitan (wheat gluten)
200g (8 oz) Bamboo shoots
1 leaflet of Dropwort/Japanese parsley (seri)
4 cups Water (can also add dashi seasoning for additional flavor)
3 Tbsp. Soy sauce
3 Tbsp. Mirin Sauce
2 Tbsp. Sugar
2 Tbsp. Sake (optional)
(carrot, green onion, and other vegetables can be added or substituted)
Mix the wasabi powder and wheat flour in a medium sized bowl. Coat surface of sliced duck and steam in a steamer, wok, or bamboo steamer for approximately 45 minutes.
In a separate pot or nabe-bowl, combine the water, soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin to create a broth. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Adding the duck and tofu skins last, continue to heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and the soup is ready to serve.
Nabe (hot-pot) dishes are well known throughout Japan. These soups are prepared at the table and typically enjoyed family-style during the winter months. Ishiri Nabe is a local variation that makes use of Ishikawa's range of delicious seafoods. In place of soy sauce, Ishiri is used to season and salt the broth. This gives Ishiri Nabe a richer, more layered taste, that perfectly complements its seafood ingredients.
1 Cup Squid, chopped
4 Clams, medium sized
4 whole Filefish (kawahagi), you can also substitute 400g
of cod or other whitefish
8-12 Sweet Shrimp (ama-ebi), peeled
1 large eggplant
100 g Daikon Radish
200g Enoki mushrooms
4 Scallion stalks, chopped (reserve some to use as a garnish)
_ package Edible Crysanthemum (where available)
4 cups Water
4 tbsp. Ishiri fish sauce
3 tbsp. Sake
1 10cm Square Konbu (seaweed/kelp)
Splash of Mirin (a sweet cooking sake)
Pinch of salt
Season with Momijioroshi or 7-pepper spice (shichimi togarashi) where available
In a pot or nabe-bowl, combine water, Ishiri, salt, sake, and mirin to make a broth. Add the chopped vegetables, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add the squid, clams, and fish, cook at a low boil for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and ready to serve.