Funazushi (鮒寿司): Old-Style Fermented Carp Sushi

Natto, Japanese fermented soybeans, are a dietary staple (with a steep learning curve for foreign palates). Funazushi takes it one step further. If you find yourself at a sushi restaurant in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture order one of the oldest forms of sushi, the funazushi, to experience one extremely fermented fish.

Lake Biwa, located in the region, is the home of a Japanese carp known as nigorobuna, which is used to produce this traditional food. Taking one to three years to make, funazushi is considered a luxury. The fish is packed in salt and left for at least a year in a wooden barrel. It’s then mixed with rice, and packed away again for two to three years for further fermentation. The resulting taste can be closely akin to an extremely tangy cheese.

Originally prepared for rice farmers, this fermented fish is now enjoyed by locals and even a few tourists who are open to experiencing its head-on funky flavor.

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