Season : September〜November
It is also crucial to wash the harako (salmon roe) well in water.
In August, still some time away from autumn, the residents of Watari start to buzz after hearing that the salmon have started to move upstream in a river somewhere. They absolutely cannot wait until the season for harako meshi, a dish of salmon and salmon roe on cooked rice, arrives. Harako meshi will start to be served in restaurants and inns in Watari from early September. Harako meshi will also appear on dining tables of every household in Watari starting from that period. To the locals, harako meshi is something to be enjoyed at home, and not outside. *The peak season for harako meshi lasts from mid-September to late November.
There are two different ways of preparing this dish, takikomi and okamaze. Pictured above is the okamaze method.
Most harako meshi served at restaurants are made using the method of takikomi, or cooking the rice with seasonings. This involves putting the rice into the rice cooker and adding salmon broth in to season the rice before cooking it. There is also another traditional way of cooking this dish called okamaze, which has been used in Watari since many centuries ago. This involves cooking the rice normally, and pouring the salmon broth over the cooked white rice little by little to season it. Both ways are absolutely delicious, but there is a slight difference in taste, which sparks heated debates on which is better from time to time in Watari.
The salmon roe and salmon are both seasoned in the same broth.
A special gravy made using soy sauce, sake and sugar is brought to boil, and then used to simmer the salmon. The salmon roe is also blanched slightly in this broth. After placing the prepared salmon and roe on top of the rice cooked with the flavorful salmon broth, harako meshi is ready to be served! You will be surprised at how fast the experienced housewives in Watari can make this dish. There are also families that keep the leftover broth to use for later batches of harako meshi. Every family in Watari is extremely particular about the taste of their own harako meshi, which makes people boast about how their family’s harako meshi is the best.
The mothers in the Watari Town Diet and Nutrition Committee were the ones who made the delicious harako meshi.
There is a saying that harako meshi gained recognition because of Date Masamune. Masamune came to Watari to inspect the construction works of the Teisanbori Canal. It is said that the local fishermen served him harako meshi there, and he was unexpectedly pleased, prompting him to talk about how delicious it was to people around him after he went back. The existence of harako meshi was spread by word of mouth, in modern terms. This made harako meshi famous, and hence it became known as the local delicacy of Watari. Harako meshi started to be served at restaurants in Arahama from the Meiji period. Harako meshi has grown to be known nationwide, but each family continues to pass down its traditional recipe of making this dish from generation to generation, just like before.
*Shops in Watari Town serve harako meshi as a seasonal dish from early September to late November every year.