Shikoku Island (the smallest island in Japan) may have only four prefectures, but when it comes to regional cuisine, it is very wealthy. I had the chance to eat my way through the whole island when living in Japan. What struck me the most, was that, although most of the cuisine is fish-based, I never got bored eating fish every day. Each dish was a new adventure in tastes and textures.
Tai Meshi Recipe
One day, we stopped at a restaurant in, Uwajima, Kochi Prefecture, called Gansui. One dish was Tai Meshi. It was a simply crafted dish that was wonderful. I’ll include my version of it in my Shikoku Island tribute.
Chazuke is either hot or cold cooked rice, topped with a variety of ingredients, and usually immersed in hot green tea or stock. The practice of mixing rice with a liquid began back in the Heian era (794-1185). This recipe is an exception, a chakuze variation called shiru-kake meshi.
Various regional versions of chakuze can be sampled around Japan. On Shikoku Island, another local chakuze is bokkake. Bokkake’s main ingredient varies from place to place–rabbit and mackerel are just two that come to mind. The main ingredient is cooked together with lots of different vegetables, almost like a stew, then everything is poured over hot rice.
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- 9 ounces (or 250g) sliced fresh tai (sea bream), cut sashimi-style
- 3+ cups hot, firmly cooked Japanese white rice
Cold Dashi Stock: Fast Version*
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dashi stock granules
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin (sweet sake)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 fresh raw eggs
- Toasted sesame seeds to taste
- Shredded Yakinori (seaweed) to taste
- Make the dashi stock by placing all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to combine well. Cool to room temperature, then chill well in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- To serve, divide the cold dashi stock into four 1/2 cup servings. Place into four bowls and top with a freshly cracked egg. Divide the sea bream into four servings, and place attractively onto four small plates. Place the garnishes in small bowls on the table. Each person mixes the egg into the stock and adds the sea bream. Let sit to marinate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide the hot rice into four rice bowls and bring them to the table. Pour the fish/stock mixture over the hot rice, and top with the condiments. Stir lightly and eat.
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Some Other Shikoku Specialties: A mini-survey
Sanuki Udon: From Kawaga Prefecture. Firmly textured and chewy udon noodles (thickly cut) are dipped into a strongly flavored soy-based sauce, with sesame seeds and minced green onions as condiments.
Sobagome Zosui: Soba (buckwheat) grains are cooked in a flavored dashi/soy sauce stock, with bits of chicken, fishcake, and vegetables. Chopped trefoil (mitsuba) or green onions are sprinkled over the top and the dish is eaten like a thick soup.
Tai Men (Men Kake): A whole sea bream is boiled. It is then dipped into cold somen (Japanese vermicelli) sauce, with the cold noodles (usually five different colors of somen are used.) Garnishes for the fish include thinly sliced boiled egg, sweetened cooked shiitake mushrooms, all dramatically presented on one big platter, with the whole fish in the center.
Another Type of Tai Meshi: A whole sea bream is cooked in rice. Considered a Japanese classic.
Sawachi Ryori: A culinary masterpiece of Tosa cooking, a traditional dish of Kochi Prefecture. Gorgeous platters, usually with diameters of 40 to 60 centimeters, offer a selection of every imaginable food; from local sashimi to katsuo no tataki, grilled fish, lightly flavored boiled vegetables, and many others.
Local Products from Shikoku Prefectures
Local products from Kagawa Prefecture:
Onions, melons, grapes, winter persimmons, sea bream, shrimp, conger eel and udon noodles. In the old days, it was essential for a bride to arrive in her new home with a rolling pin and a cutting board to make homemade udon. Produces the largest amount of olives in Japan. 和三盆WASANBON（a special sugar produced in Kagawa or Tokushima Prefecture) used to make Wagashi (tea ceremony sweets).
Local products from Tokushima Prefecture:
Lotus root, spinach, carrots, yuzu (a fragrant citrus fruit), Sudachi (すだち) is a sour green Japanese citron fruit and sora-mame (a broad bean). Narutokintoki is a well-known sweet potato in this area. Narutowakame (なるとわかめ) is also famous.
Local Products from Kochi Prefecture:
Yuzu (Japanese citron) is also grown here for yuzu jam, miso, juice, and vinegar. Local fish includes top-quality skipjack and tuna.
Aonori (fresh green nori) from Shimanto River is famous. Aonori is used for sprinkling over Okonomiyaki.
Buntan (Tosa Buntan), is a large Kochi orange with a taste that is very refreshing (さっぱり).
Local Products from Ehime Prefecture:
The most famous product is mikan oranges and other varieties of Japanese oranges. The largest chestnut harvest in Japan is located here, and the best katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings). There are also salt fields in Ehime.