Ingredients, dishes and drinks from Japan by Ad Blankestijn

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ikanago no Kugini

Tsukudani made with sand lances (ikanago, a tiny fish). いかなごのくぎ煮.

A type of tsukudani (salt-sweet preserve). Local food from the Kobe-Akashi area. The tiny sand lances are simmered in a broth of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, ginger and other ingredients until they turn brown. In fact, they look like rusty, brown nails and that is what they are called - "kugini" means "simmered nails."

Ikanago no Kugini

The tasty product is eaten over rice. Usually eaten around the end of February - early March when the fish is about an inch long. The dish is therefore also a sort of harbinger of spring. The fishes are caught in the Seto Inland Sea. When the season is over, the sand lances delve into the sand where they stay until the next year.

Traditionally, this was a homemade dish, although now one buys it ready-made in the supermarket. It is also a success story of promotion by the fishing industry, for 30 years ago the sand lances were mostly sold cheaply as cattle feed. Since then it has been put on the gourmet map as a typical regional product and the price has soared for "Ikanago no Kunini" is not only eaten in the Kansai, but shipped around the country.