You may know what uni and hamachi are—but do you know what iwashi is? It’s the Japanese name for sardine, the small, oil-rich, delicious saltwater fish.
Kurazushi, one of Japan’s most popular budget revolving sushi chains, has started offering a 350-yen Whole Sardine Roll. The unusual roll features a whole Hokkaido-caught sardine, a leaf of oba (Japanese basil), and grated plum. The fish’s backbone is graciously removed before being placed into the roll.
We have two questions about the whole fish roll: 1) Which end do you start with—head or tail? 2) Where can we get this in America?
The whole-fish offering is being released just in time for Setsubun, a Japanese festival that signifies the start of spring. During Setsubun, it’s customary to buy ehomaki, or thick sushi rolls, which those celebrating the holiday eat while facing towards whichever point of the compass has been deemed the most auspicious for that year.
Another Setsubun activity: decorating the entrance to your home with something called hiiragi iwashi, or a cooked sardine head stuck on a sprig of holly.
Hiiragi iwashi: Cooked sardine head stuck on a sprig of holly. (Photo: kimamatime)
The whole sardine roll from Kurazushi combines two Setsubun traditions into one neat package.