The city of Kesennuma is located in northeast Miyagi Prefecture. With the rich blessings of the sea at its hands, the city is one of the major fishing ports in the offshore Sanriku area, with a commercial-fishing industry that has been flourishing for many, many years. The port is one of the few in Japan offering bountiful catches including bonito, sharks, pacific saury and swordfish.
In this Kesennuma environment, sanma tsukudani (preserved pacific saury boiled in soy sauce) made with perfectly fatty Sanriku-caught pacific saury, is a popular local dish.
For this article, we will introduce the Golden Pacific Saury tsukudani, which is handmade by the Saikichi Shoten, which has been doing business in Kesennuma ever since the Taisho era (1912–1926).
Here are some recommended pointers for using Golden Pacific Saury as a gift.
The secret of the delicious Golden Pacific Saury is the traditional secret kaeshi sauce used for simmering. This sauce has been used ever since the product was developed 30 years ago, topped up with each use, providing the product with many years of umami (delicious taste).
The fat on the pacific saury needs to be just right—too much or too little fat does not make a good tsukudani, so the pacific saury caught in the Sanriku area are important as they provide the perfect amount of fattiness for the recipe.
The Golden Pacific Saury is slowly simmered until even the bones are soft, creating a fluffy texture. This allows individuals from wide age groups, from small children to senior citizens, to enjoy the fish.
Saikichi Shoten started off as a grocery store in Kesennuma approximately 100 years ago in 1921.
When the second generation owners were running the business, the store expanded its horizons with shipping agent operations that arranged ship hands for fishing boats along with their food and equipment in 1950. As compensation for this service, the store received some of the fishermen’s catches, participating and in step with the Kesennuma fishing culture.
In 1989, Saikichi Shoten established a food department and started food processing and sales. However, some areas in Kesennuma were severely hit by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami—Saikichi Shoten, its factories, stores and head office all fell prey to the tsunami. The secret kaeshi sauce, essential for manufacturing the hallmark Golden Pacific Saury, was also swept away by the tsunami waves. Although the store had given up on finding the sauce at one time, an employee miraculously found it in a mountain of debris.
“I didn’t want to lose one more day until I was cooking pacific saury with this sauce again. There was a need to create a product more delicious than before the disaster because there were many people needing some joy and upliftment in their lives.” With this powerful sentiment in mind, the Saikichi Shoten started its journey of rebuilding the business right after the earthquake.
The business focused on manufacturing and sales of its brand products at rebuilding, and started manufacturing some products in July 2011. Now, it has restarted its factories and stores, and has permanent shops in the Nihombashi Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo, along with its main store in Kesennuma.
Along with the Golden Pacific Saury, the Saikichi Shoten offers the Sunaoni series featuring fresh ingredients simmered with care and without excess components, and also seafood rice bowls that showcase fresh seafood.
“The signature products Golden Pacific Saury and Sunaoni present what Saikichi does the best, which is simmering dishes. We find great satisfaction through our painstaking manual preparation, which uses only selected ingredients,” says Yoshitaro Saito, of the Saikichi Shoten.
Tsukudani saury was originally a local Kesennuma dish, and the pacific saury that Saito’s grandmother cooked was so delicious it was decided that there was a need to commercialize it as the Golden Pacific Saury. The recipe underwent repeated testing and subtle tweaks by the Saikichi Shoten development team before being launched.
“There may be no such thing as a taste that is universally delicious to everyone, but we allocated much time and effort into making subtle adjustments and establishing cooking methods and processes. Even now, we adjust the taste every year.”
Although many food factories manufacture their products in an industrial manner, Saikichi Shoten puts stock in creating products by hand. According to Saito, the products are created in a factory that looks like a gigantic kitchen.
The popularity of Golden Pacific Saury as a gift has led to the development of more convenient products that can be stored at room temperature as gifts.
“The Hitokuchi (one bite) Golden Pacific Saury was developed so we could have a product capable of being stored at room temperature. The product has a special design, including heating methods, so it can be stored for longer periods of time at room temperature. It is also portable, making it convenient for gifts,” explains Saito. The product also features attractive packaging, making it optimal for small, casual gifts.
In conclusion, here is the recommended way to taste the Golden Pacific Saury.
“Before anything, I recommend topping freshly cooked rice with the pacific saury. The fish also goes very well with seasonal condiments such as wasabi, Japanese pepper, Japanese pepper leaves, green shiso leaves, ginger, and fine strips of leek. For colder seasons, eating it as chazuke, with soup stock poured on boiled rice and the Golden Pacific Saury is also wonderful. As condiments are seasonal, Saikichi Shoten stores concentrate on offering combinations with in-season condiments to showcase the season, which our customers enjoy as well.”
Saito says that he is overjoyed when customers purchase some to eat at home, because the products go well with various other food ingredients.
“I hope it will create an enjoyable mealtime when used as a gift, or a casual dish that can be eaten at one’s own home when one is busy.”
The Golden Pacific Saury was born from the rich Kesennuma oceans and the tender handiwork of its people. Why not share it with somebody special?
Writer : SAKIKO FUJIMURA / Photographer : CHIE MARUYAMA
|Address||1-13 Kashizaki, Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture|
|Hours||10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.|
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