Kusaya (Dried Fish): The Stinkiest Food in Japan
When I think of impactful Japanese food, what comes to my mind right away is “Kusaya (くさや)”, which is a dried fish that is infamous for emitting an unforgettable stench.
Kusaya is a Japanese Himono dried fish that is a specialty of Izu Islands whose origin is said to date back to the Edo period, about 400 years ago. And today it has become one of the delicacies that represent Japan.
Typical fish prepared for making Kusaya includes fresh mackerel scad, flying fish, and dolphinfish, and the outline of the production method of Kusaya is as follows.
- Cut open fishes.
- The fish is soaked in the fermented brine called “Kusaya Eki (くさや液)” for 8 to 20 hours to get it fermented by the bacteria inhabiting the liquid.
- Then, wash and rinse the fish with fresh water.
- As a finishing process, the fish is dried in the sun for one day or two.
Kusaya Eki is dark brown, thick, weak alkaline (about pH8) fermented brine with a distinctive smell and flavor to it.
It is said that the older the brine Kusaya Eki gets, the better it becomes. In fact, some kinds of Kusaya Eki in Izu have been used for over 200 years.
When grilling Kusaya, a terribly bad odor spreads and fills the air. The grilling smell similar to that of ginkgo nuts is said to be, in terms of food, the 5th stinkiest in the world and the stinkiest in Japan.
Despite the stench, grilled Kusaya fish is delicious with plenty of umami and has long been loved by gourmets.
Kusaya is a wholesome nutritious food with no artificial flavorings, colors, or preservatives. It is especially rich in protein, calcium, and amino acids compared to ordinary Himono products.
Besides, while the salt content of the average Himono fish is about 18 to 20 percent, that of Kusaya is as low as about 6 to 8 percent.
Kusaya is usually enjoyed after grilling but can be eaten as it is. Kusaya products are typically bottled or vacuum-packed because of the stench of the fish.
|Niijima Island Mackerel Scad Kusaya||Izu Islands Mackerel Scad and Flying Fish Kusaya|
Where to Eat Kusaya in Tokyo
If you have a plan to visit our country and want to give Kusaya a try, you could eat the smelly fish at Japanese-style pubs “Izakaya (居酒屋)”. For example, below is where you can eat Kusaya in Tokyo.
Izakaya Fukube (ふくべ)
- Address: 1-4-5 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
- Open: (Monday to Friday) 16:30 to 22:15 (last call) (Saturday) 16:30 to 21:15 (last call)
- Closed: Sundays, Second and Fourth Saturdays
- Address: 1-1-5 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
- Open: (Monday to Saturday) 19:00 to 3:00
- Closed: Irregularly
(Reference Page: Wikipedia くさや )