- Main lore areas
Mihara, Onomichi, Osakikamijima, Kure
- Main ingredients used
Igisu (red algae) raw soy flour, dashi stock, shiso leaves, Japanese ginger, miso, vinegar
- History/origin/related events
This dish is made from a type of algae called “igisu”, which is mixed with raw soy flour and heated until it melts, then set like gelatin. It works on the same principle as vegetable gelatin or agar-agar, and sets without any need to add a coagulant. It is always made for Bon festival or other occasions when friends and family gather. In some areas it is frequently made during summer. The garnishes and seasonings used vary depending on the region and the household. In summer it is eaten chilled from the fridge. Igisu is a reddish-brown variety of algae cultivated from summer until fall, also referred to as “egonori”.
It is shaped in fine strands that split off into different "paths" one after another, with the tips bending into a hooked shape. While it grows in the deep recesses of the sea, it drifts into the shallows of inlets and beaches from spring to summer, where it is harvested from the rocks and pebbles it sticks to. Once gathered, it is repeatedly rinsed in cold water and dried in the sun, until it is dehydrated. Low in calories and rich in minerals and dietary fiber, it is prized as an ideal food for promoting a long life. It has been eaten since ancient times, reportedly having been offered as tribute to the Imperial Court in the Asuka (592 to 710 CE) and Nara (710 to 794 CE) periods. It has become difficult to get hold of these days, but foods made from melted and set igisu can still be seen in Tottori, Ehime, Niigata, Nagasaki, Fukuoka and other prefectures.
- Opportunities and times of eating habits
Until about 1960, the dish was frequently made for Bon festival or other occasions when friends and family would gather. In some areas it is often made during summer in particular.
- How to eat
Thoroughly rinse the dehydrated algae. Dissolve the algae with raw soy flour in water, before simmering. Pour into a square or rectangular container to cool, and once it has set, cut it into blocks. You can set the algae by itself, or add carrots, burdock, shrimp; it can also be mixed with rice bran water before setting. It is eaten with various miso pastes (vinegared, or with dried sardines, water pepper or yuzu), ginger, or soy sauce mixed with grated ginger.
- Efforts for Preservation and Succession
The dish is sold at regional farmer's markets, including those at roadside rest stations. As harvests of red algae decrease, it is becoming less and less common, but it is sometimes still made at home, too.