Kitchen Culture

tasty tidbits from the old-fashioned Japanese Kitchen

ハラコ飯   Harako Meshi

Archaeological evidence dating back at least 5,000 years shows that the early inhabitants of the Tohoku – the Jomon peoples—fished for salmon. The ancient coastline is dotted with inlets that today bear the names of well-known fishing ports: Oofunato, Rikuzentakada and Minami Sanriku, all of which were devastated by the tsunami in March of 2011. Before the disaster, Minami Sanriku had become a major center for farmed Coho salmon – bringing about 15,000 tons of fish a year to Japan’s domestic market.

Salmon has always played an important role in Tohoku cuisine, and Harako Meshi (literally “salmon child rice”) is a “signature dish” of the region. Often featured at family gatherings, variations abound – every household seems to have it’s own rendition. When presented as casual fare, the salmon is likely to be flaked and tossed into the rice as it steams for a final few moments. When divvied up, individual bowls are topped with a modest spoonful of salmon caviar. On special occasions, though, many home cooks will present the dish on a large platter garnished with slices of cooked salmon and clusters of caviar.