Monday, November 3, 2014

Karasumi/Wu Yu Zi: Salted Mullet Roe

Here's an interesting one: karasumi 唐墨, or wu yu zi 烏魚子, salted mullet (a type of fish) roe in Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine, respectively. Apparently very similar to the Mediterranean botargo, which is also salted typically mullet roe. What makes this intriguing to me is that the Taiwanese link raises questions as to the food's origins.

One might think that Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine share this dish due to cultural exchange in one direction or another during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan. Apparently, though, mullet fishing in Taiwan can be traced back to when Taiwan was a Dutch colony! (Back in the 17th century) So maybe the dish was introduced to Japan via Taiwan. Or maybe there was independent development of the dish. Or maybe something else complicated.

The botargo link is intriguing also, due to the Dutch-Taiwan link, except that Holland is far from the Mediterranean. And then again, there's a whole lot of salt curing in a variety of foods in many different cuisines.

I dug this all up because I recently came across an excellent karasumi daikon dish at a yakitori place in the South Bay, which reminded me of how my (Taiwanese) grandmother used to often serve karasumi/wu yu zi as part of meals when I was a wee 'un.


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