The Flavour of the Sea Presented to the Imperial Household, Sun-Dried

The Flavour of the Sea Presented to the Imperial Household, Sun-Dried

Wakasa Karei. Its Forte: An Exquisite Sweetness.

Every year, Wakasa karei (righteye flounder) is presented to the Imperial household, representing the flavour of the sea and the Wakasa region; shipment of the flounder has begun. At the Wakasa Obama Fish Center (located in Fukui Prefecture, Obama City, Kawasaki, 2-Chome), a number of lightly salted flounders are arranged into rows with skewers, to dry in the sun, forming an image of a school of fish swimming against the backdrop of the blue autumn sky.

Wakasa karei are fished from the Wakasa Bay. According to the Obama branch of the Fukui Prefecture Fishery Cooperative Association, ships being landing and casting their nets as the fishing season opens every October. Also recognized for its refined sweet flavour, its meat gets thicker over November through December. The orange roe inside the flounder can be seen through its translucent flesh, as it continues to swell; it is during this time when the fish is said to be the most delicious.

At the Fish Center’s Gyoan Shop, the flounders are hung and drying out in the sun, along the eaves. The flounders are seasoned with salt, after the scales, internal organs, and gills are removed, and then washed with water. Five or six flounders are pierced with a metal skewer and, when the weather is favourable, left outside to dry from the morning until the late afternoon.

“Presice because the cold winds are blowing during this season, it is just right for drying,” says Shouichi Mouri (aged 43), “You could go as far as calling it ‘Amagarei’ (“sweet” flounder), because its sweetness is so exquisite, a remarkable difference from other flounders.” Even when grilling the fillet, it does not dry out and remains moist, earning it a delicious stamp of approval.

In season, the fillet can be the same size as a grown man’s palm. As a year-end gift, orders from across the country continue to come in one after another. The fishing season will continue until next spring. Every year in November or December, carefully selected Wakasa karei are presented to the Imperial household.