While we are on the subject of food… We have discovered many interesting and new foods since we have lived in Japan. One of the most unusual is shirasu. Shirasu is also known as “whitebait” — and is the juvenile form of several fish species, including herring, anchovies, and sardines. These “baby” fish are harvested in large numbers from local coastal waters — including Sagami Bay southwest of Tokyo.
We first tried these tiny fish — usually only a one or two centimeters in length — when we attended a dinner at a local restaurant. When they brought out a salad, there were these tiny white “things” sprinkled on top. They were tender, and tasted mildly “fishy” and salty, and were not unpleasant at all. On close-up inspection, we found that they were in fact, tiny whole fish… head, eyes, tail, fins, and all!
In the supermarket, they sell plastic containers of these tiny fish — most of them cooked (boiled), but some raw, or dried, and they are relatively inexpensive. I have never actually bought these from the store, but plan to soon try my hand at making shirasu-don myself.
“Don” in Japanese means a bowl of rice. So, shirasu-don is simply a bowl of rice with shirasu on top. Usually there will be assorted vegetable or seaweed toppings, and grated ginger as well. Sometimes it will be served with fish roe or raw fish (sashimi) too. And a complete set meal –“teishoku” in Japanese — will be served with miso soup, and Japanese pickled vegetables — “tsukemono.”
We recently took a short day trip to Enoshima Island while our daughter was visiting, and stopped in at a local restaurant for their signature dish — shirasu-don. We enjoyed it very much. It was delicious — once you get past the knowledge that you are eating baby fish. Totemo oishii desu!