- Main lore areas
Wakasa area (including Kono district in Reihoku)
- Main ingredients used
Mackerel, salt, konuka, chili pepper
- History/origin/related events
It is a traditional dish of the Wakasa area and the Echizen coast. The entrails of the fish are removed and pickled in salt, and the fish is then preserved for a long time without spoiling. It was a valuable source of protein for surviving the harsh winters. It has a long history and is said to have already been produced in the middle of the Edo period. There are several theories as to how it came to be called heshiko. One theory is that the word "heshiko" was derived from "heshikomushi," which is an abbreviation of "heshikomushi" when fishermen marinated fish in a barrel, and another that the word "heshiko" was derived from "hishio," the water that came out after fish were pickled in salt. Heshiko is also made from sardines, squid, and pufferfish, but mackerel is the most common. Seafood caught in Wakasa was transported to Kyoto via the "Wakasa Kaido" (Wakasa Highway), which in recent years has come to be known as the "Saba Kaido" because it was used mainly to transport salted mackerel to Kyoto among many other types of seafood.
In the Reinan region, "Konuka Iwashi" (pickled sardines) is often eaten, which is mainly made by pickling sardines.
- Opportunities and times of eating habits
Because it is a long-term preserved food, it is eaten all year round. In the past, nare-zushi, made with heshiko, was an indispensable dish for New Year's and other festive occasions. Nowadays, many producers make nare-zushi.
- How to eat
Salted mackerel is marinated in konuka (bran) and salt for about six months. The mackerel has a strong salty and delicious flavor, similar to that of kunsei, so recipes that make the most of it include removing the bran and cutting it into pieces, lightly roasting it over a fire, serving it with ochazuke (rice with green tea), as a snack with sake, as an ingredient in rice balls, as a sushi topping, and recently as an ingredient in fried rice, and, like anchovies, on pasta and pizza. Fresh ones are also eaten as sashimi.
- Efforts for Preservation and Succession
Although it is not made at home anymore, it is popular as a local specialty and souvenir.
In Mihama Town, Mikata County, the "Mihama Heshiko Association" was established with the aim of branding and improving the quality of heshiko. In 2006, a PR character named "Heshiko-chan" was created to promote the history and image of heshiko. In addition, elementary schools offer extracurricular classes where students learn how to make narezushi, a type of sushi using heshiko, from local people.
In Tanakasu, Obama City, a workshop established by volunteer local residents produces and sells narezushi made from mackerel heshiko, and is working to preserve and pass it on by disseminating information about local culture and food culture on its website and at events, as well as by interacting with local high school students.