Golden Week is For Foodies: Iwakuni-zushi

型枠 (katawaku): mold (for shaping things)

This Golden Week, a friend and I finally ventured out to southwestern Honshû to see Hiroshima. I’ll be doing a separate post on all the tasty things we ate in Hiroshima City and Miyajima, but I wanted to start out with some of the dishes we had on our trip to Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture, a 40-minute train ride out of Hiroshima City.

Iwakuni is famous for Kintaikyô (錦帯橋), a bridge with a distinctive three-arched structure and one of Japan’s three famous bridges. According to the tourism brochure, the original bridge was washed away by a flood in 1674, just a year after its construction. It was rebuilt in 1674and remained in place until 1950, when it was destroyed by a typhoon. The third bridge reopened in 1953 and reconstruction was completed in 2004. It costs 300 yen to cross the bridge (930 yen if you want to take the ropeway to the castle), and once we had, it was time to dig into the local foods before heading to the beautiful gardens.

1. Iwakuni-zushi (岩国寿司)

Iwakuni-zushi with pickles, tea, and a light soup.

Iwakuni is famous for a very distinctive type of sushi. Most Americans think of sushi as maki-zushi (巻き寿司), the rolled type; in Japan, nigiri-zushi (握り寿司), the molded rice with fish on top, is much more common. There’s also temaki-zushi (手巻き寿司), a sort of burrito-esque rolled sushi; and inari-zushi (いなり寿司), rice in a fried tofu skin “pocket.”

A close up of the Iwakuni-zushi.

Iwakuni-zushi is made by shaping sushi rice into a square with a large wooden mold. Instead of hand-molding the sushi a la oshizushi (押し寿司]), pressed sushi, the chef places the ingredients into the wooden mold and steps on the lid to form the shape with his/her own body weight. The sushi is topped with pickled Japanese Spanish mackerel (sawara, サワラ, 鰆) or horse mackerel (aji, アジ, 鰺); as well as shiitake (椎茸), Japanese-style omelet; thinly sliced (usuiyaki tamago, 薄焼き卵); and/or lotus root (renkon, 蓮根), which is also famous in Iwakuni.

The sushi served to us at Kojirô, the second-floor restaurant at Sasaki-ya Kojirô Shôten (佐々木屋小次郎商店) had thinly sliced omelet (what looks like cheese in the photo), minced pickled fish, sesame seeds, greens (possibly spinach), and sauce. The sushi was delicious, but just one would have been plenty for me–that is a LOT of rice.

Next time on I’ll Make it Myself!: Lotus Root Ice Cream, ゲット!

次回: 2. 100 Flavors of Iwakuni

佐々木屋小次郎商店  Sasaki-ya Kojirô Shôten

〒741-0081 山口県岩国市横山2丁目5−32

741-0081 Yamaguchi-ken Iwakuni-shi Yokoyama 2-5-32

Tel. 0827-41-3741 ‎

Just across the Kintaikyo Bridge; the first floor is an ice-cream shop and the restaurant is on the second floor.

Open 9:00-19:00.

Website

Map

Resources

“Iwakuni Sushi.” Japan-In-Motion.

「岩国寿司」。三原屋。(Includes photos of the process)

Tabelog‘s entry on Sasaki-ya Kojirô.

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