January 21, 13 | Gakkun
Welcome to Shikabe, the only town in Hokkaido without a single farm house. Fishing is this town's main industry, and currently walleye pollock is in season! When one mentions walleye, here in Japan the conversation inevitably includes that top-class delicacy, "tarako." (Tarako is a Japanese word for fish roe.) There are many tarako processing plants located in Shikabe, but today I'd like to talk about the Marusen Michiba Fishery and their original "sweet tarako!" I don't want to stop at just tarako though, so I infiltrated their processing plant to get a look at the secret behind their delicious seafood!
▲ The tightly packed fine grain of Shikabe tarako.
Hokkaido tarako is gathered from walleye caught in Funka Bay. Prior to processing the eggs are all harvested in their raw state. This means that the quality of grain is completely different from non-Hokkaido tarako, which is often frozen before being harvested.
At Marusen Michiba Fishery the tarako are harvested from the walleye the day that the catch is brought in and quickly pickled in brine. The concentration of the brine used is about 5% higher than that used by other tarako processing plants. This is the secret to the fishery's unique tarako taste. When eaten alone the tarako tastes far less salty, and much more of the natural sweetness comes forward.
▲ Extremely fine-grain salt. After feeling this, regular salt seems really rough.
The Okinawan salt used has a slightly sweet taste as well. This salt, which has a smooth flavor when eaten alone, really helps to deepen the taste of the tarako. I tried a taste of the salt myself for comparison, and the difference was obvious. It is clear that every step of the process helps improve the flavor of the eggs.
▲ The plants manager, who has extreme pride in their tarako flavoring process. He was full of pride even while just explaining this machines function.
▲ By the way, this is the machine used for pickling. Although currently done by machines, this turning job used to be carried out every hour by hand.
"The tarako size varies from fish to fish, and also from season to season as the fish are caught. We change the amount of salt used, and therefore the strength of the brine, based on the day's catch," explains Senior Managing Director Mr. Shinichi. This process combines the skill of the manufacturer with the grace of nature to provide a consistently delicious flavor. It is with this daily dedication to their product the fisheries in Shikabe build their brands.
▲ The staff works silently with practiced hands to tightly pack the tarako into boxes.
The carefully flavored tarako are soon passed to capable hands for packing. From here the boxes of tarako will be shipped across Japan for fans of the treat to enjoy.
Even while the staff at Marusen processes their delicious, high-quality tarako they are constantly in search of new flavors to produce.
Working in collaboration with the Hokkaido born Chef Tomoshi Wakiya, who specializes in Chinese cuisine, they have created two test Chinese Tarako dishes, "Black Pepper Tarako" and "Mapo Tarako."
▲ At the top is the Black Pepper Tarako, on bottom is the Mapo Tarako. Though they look similar the taste is quite different.
These Wakiya originals feature a Jyan (miso) base topped with black pepper or Japanese pepper accent and go great with rice! The deep taste of the dishes will captivate you as you enjoy every bite. Be sure to thoroughly cook the rice before you dig in!
Around the New Year's holiday season the demand for Tarako is especially high. Certainly you can enjoy it in large amounts, but after the holiday's excessive meals they make the perfect small snack! For purchase information please check the site's contact details below.
Finally I'd like to point out that the subtitle of this article was not an exaggeration. I was trying to express just how delicious the tarako is. In case it isn't clear let me tell you a true story to drive it home. "On the day after I visited the plant for this interview, even though I had just finished a breakfast of a small bowl of tarako, as soon as we had exited the office four of us enjoyed a bowl of probably 300 grams of sweet tarako right away. We literally could not stop eating the stuff!"
▲ Near the end of our meal I realized that I had been eating so much I'd forgotten to take nearly any pictures of the food! There isn't much left to show, but that's just how delicious it was.
株式会社丸鮮道場水産 (Marusen Michiba Fisheries)
Home Page : http://www.michiba-suisan.host.jp (Japanese)
TEL : 0120-47-2523
FAX : 0120-47-3957
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Gakkun)
(Photographs by Gakkun and courtesy of Marusen Michiba Fishery).