Photo: © grape Japan

A Trio of Joban-Mono Seafood Delicacies at Tohoku Sakaba Tregion Port in Akasaka

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Jōban-mono 常磐もの refers to seafood caught in the Jōban Coast (off Fukushima and Iwaki Prefectures), and has become a brand name for the delicious fish and seafood unloaded in Fukushima Prefecture, which is in process of recovering and showing great resilience following the Great East Japan Earthquake. In these plentiful fishing grounds where the warm Japan Current meets the Kurile Current, there is an abundance of nutrition for the seafood, making the flesh firm and fatty, with a characteristically rich flavor that stands above others in Japan.

To promote this excellent seafood to both a domestic and international audience, Sankei Shimbun established the “Fukushima Jōban-mono Project."

Last month, our grape Japan staff traveled to Iwaki to introduce this project, beginning with its source of inspiration. We appreciated how Jōban-mono seafood was the pride of the community in Iwaki, from school programs teaching fishing and maritime skills, to fish markets where seafood was carefully handled and inspected for safety.

The main thrust of the “Fukushima Jōban-mono Project" involves promoting Jōban-mono as widely as possible, and what better way to do so then provide Jōban-mono in the heart of Tokyo? For example, the project has collaborated with Tohoku Sakaba Tregion Port, a restaurant in the Akasaka neighborhood in Tokyo offering delicious fare from the six prefectures of Tohoku, as well as the Japan Fisherman's Festival (known in Japanese as 全国魚市場&魚河岸まつり zenkoku sakana ichiba & uogashi matsuri) from November 14th to 17th where Jōban-mono dishes were one of the highlights.

For our second assignment on the “Fukushima Jōban-mono Project," we visited Tregion to sample three seafood delicacies made with Jōban-mono.

Tregion Port: An Overview

Open since June 2018, Tregion is a friendly and spacious restaurant and bar conveniently located just a few minutes' walk from the Akasaka-Mitsuke metro station. Restaurant manager Mr. Masaya Shimizu explained that Tregion was established with the goal of promoting Tohoku food as broadly as possible. When it comes to seafood from Fukushima Prefecture, he wants people to try it and enjoy it in his restaurant. Once customers realize how tasty it is, he hopes they will become fans.

Tregion is located on the second floor of the Dai-Hachi Arai Building. You can't miss its elegant facade.

Photo by © grape Japan

After climbing up a winding staircase under a chandelier to an esplanade, you'll find the main entrance of Tregion Port.

Photo by © grape Japan

Let's take a look inside. There is plenty of room for parties of different sizes. There's also a projection screen for events and sports viewing parties, such as the ones they recently had for the World Rugby Cup.

Photo courtesy of © Tregion

The bar is well stocked and includes excellent sake from the Tohoku area.

Photo courtesy of © Tregion

A Trio of Jōban-mono Seafood Delicacies

As part of their current collaboration with the “Fukushima Jōban-mono Project," Tregion is offering three dishes on their menu made with Jōban-mono seafood: Pacific saury "pōpō-yaki" fishcakes, surf clam gratin and steamed sea urchin on the half-shell.

Pacific saury "pōpō-yaki" fishcakes

  • Name (JP): さんまのポーポー焼き
  • Pronunciation: sanma no pōpō-yaki
  • Name (EN): Pacific saury "pōpō-yaki" fishcakes
  • Source: 有限会社上野台豐商店 Uenodaiyutakasyouten Corporation

Pōpō-yaki was originally a dish made by fishermen on their boats. Since they got tired of eating sashimi all the time, they took minced Pacific saury, made it into balls and grilled them on a hibachi. "Pōpō" is the sound made by the coals when oil from the fatty Pacific saury drips onto them during cooking.

Under the supervision of Mr. Yutaka Uenodai 上野臺優, CEO of Uenodaiyutakasyouten Corporation, only the freshest Pacific saury is minced with ginger, miso paste and chopped green onions, then they are made into balls within 24 hours from unloading the catch at Onahama. (In an adaptation of the classic recipe, Tregion flattens the balls into patties and deep-fries them.)

Photo by © grape Japan

You may think that fishcakes have an overpowering fishy aftertaste, but not these patties. The texture was smooth, with no bones, and the patties were juicy and bursting with flavor.

Photo by © grape Japan

Surf clam gratin

  • Name (JP): ほっき貝グラタン
  • Pronunciation: hokki-gai guratan
  • Name (EN): Surf clam gratin
  • Source: 株式会社大川魚店 Ōkawa Uoten Co., Ltd.

The waters off the coast of Iwaki are known for big surf clams, which are prized for their succulent red flesh. Known in Japanese as hokki-gai ほっき貝, this shellfish is a favorite in local cuisine such as hokkimeshi ほっき飯 (rice with surf clams).

To highlight the flavor of surf clams in a presentation which would also appeal to foreign palettes, a gratin made of surf clams is served on the half shell. Baked with a rich Béchamel sauce, this gratin is a wonderful dish, the surf clam flavorful with a delightfully chewy texture. The gratin is made even more enticing by the addition of Hawaiian Sauce from Iwaki Unite Co., Ltd., a tangy dressing made with mango and papaya puree. According to Mr. Shimizu, a friend recommended the sauce as a way of complementing the gratin's flavors. It's a combination you must try.

Photo by © grape Japan

Photo by © grape Japan

Steamed sea urchin on the half-shell

  • Name (JP): ウニ貝焼き
  • Pronunciation: uni kai-yaki
  • Name (EN): Steamed sea urchin on the half shell
  • Source: 和食処かに船 Kanifune

Another Jōban-mono dish famous in Iwaki is uni kai-yaki. Steamed uni served on a half shell. Tregion serves this steamed uni on a giant clam shell. If you are a fan of sea urchin in its raw form, as you may find in sushi restaurants, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Already delicious fresh, the steamed version enhances and concentrates the flavors, making them richer and sweeter. Combined with a savory miso-cheese topping, it's truly a delicious dish, not to mention one which has quite a strong visual impact.

Photo by © grape Japan

Photo by © grape Japan

Tregion Port Information

  • Name (JP): 東北酒場 トレジオンポート
  • Name (EN): Tohoku Sakaba Tregion Port
  • Hours: Mon. to Fri. 17:00 to 24:00 (open exceptionally on Sat., Sun. and national holidays for special events)
  • Address (JP): 〒107-0052 東京都港区赤坂3-12-18 第8荒井ビル2F
  • Address (EN): Dai-Hachi Arai Bldg. 3-12-18 Akasaka, Minato-ku Tokyo 107-0052
  • Tel: 03-6807-4242
  • Website: Tregion Port

Supported by Fukushima Joban-mono Project

By - Ben K.

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