FF 8

As an island nation, the diet in Japan has traditionally consisted largely of fish. Over the last decade, though, per-person caloric intake of fish has dropped roughly 20 percent. Rattled by this shift in eating habits, the Japanese fishing industry has decided it needs to do something new to catch diners’ attention, and has set about creating fish that naturally contain the flavor and scent of fruit and herbs.

Before fears of gene-splicing and mutant fish grab hold of you, rest assured that the process is all-natural. As nutritionists have long told us, you are what you eat, and the same goes for our ocean-dwelling friends (whose friendship we usually terminate by eating them). While the fishing industry can’t control what fish eat in the open sea, it’s a simple task to mix fruit or herbs into the feed given to farm-raised fish, which in turn imparts a variety of flavor enhancements and health benefits.

Much like the microbrew industry, several of these “craft fish” are regional specialties. A number of them utilize the citrus fruits that thrive along the coasts of Japan’s Inland Sea, such as the mikan seabream of Ehime Prefecture.

Ehime is one of Japan’s top producers of mikan mandarin oranges, particularly the tart variety known as iyokan.

FF 2

Mikan seabream are cultivated like any other farm-raised seabream for their first 26 months, but for the last sixteen weeks before harvesting, the leftover skin and pulp from juice mikan are mixed into their feed. The result on the plate is a gentle citrus aroma and distinct mikan flavor.

FF 1

Ehime is located on the northwest corner of Shikoku, the smallest of the four major islands that make up Japan. Across the straight from Ehime, on the island of Kyushu, is Oita Prefecture, which is famous for the lime-like kabosu.

FF 4

Fish farmers in Oita decided that kabosu would make an ideal addition to the feed given to the prefecture’s other delicacy: flounder.

FF 3

In recent years flounder imports have been driving down prices for Oita’s catch, and it’s hoped that the harder to emulate kabosu flounder will give Oita a leg up on the competition. Aside from imparting a unique flavor, the antioxidants contained in kabosu act as a natural flavor preservative.

Ehime’s direct neighbor to the east, Kagawa Prefecture, has also thrown its hat into the ring. In contrast to the citrus-enhanced offerings above, Kagawa is betting on its prized olives, which were first cultivated in Japan on Kagawa’s Shodoshima Island.

FF 6

Leaves from olive trees are ground into a powder, which is mixed into the feed pellets given to hamachi, or yellowtail. The fish dine on these special treats for at least 20 days before harvesting.

FF 5

The olives add both flavor and a large quantity of vitamin E, plus lessen the fishy smell that turns some people off of seafood. Yellowtail is at its most prized in the autumn and winter, when the fish’s reserves of fat are at their highest, and olive yellowtail can usually be found in stores between mid-September and mid-January.

Finally, back on Kyushu you can find herb mackerel in Nagasaki Prefecture. In 2008, the Nagasaki Mackerel Fisheries Group began feeding a portion of its fish a mixture of nutmeg, oregano, cinnamon, and ginger.

FF 7

Like with the olive yellowtail, this blend of seasonings cuts down the powerful smell that mackerel is known for, and is said to help the fish reach just the right firmness and retain their flavor. Herb mackerel has garnered enough fans that it is served raw, stewed, and grilled in restaurants and hotels of major cities across Kyushu.

The producers of these special fish are hoping that their distinct flavor and more palatable aromas will help to revive flagging domestic sales. At the same time, they’re looking to score a hit with diners abroad. After all, it’s common in Western cooking to add a squirt of lemon juice to a nice cut of fish, and who wouldn’t like the convenience of seafood that comes pre-seasoned from the inside?

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Nagoyakatei
Insert images: Toyo Engei, My Navi News, Gurutabi, Ameblo, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Kensanpin, Yoshoku