When you pick up visitors in Kanazawa and ask them, “What do you want to eat?”, I believe the answer you’ll often get is “I want to eat Nodoguro (Blackthroat seaperch)!”.
For those who have lived in Kanazawa for a long time, Nodoguro is a familiar fish, and it’s not uncommon to see it being sold in supermarkets. So, you might wonder why people from outside the prefecture are so eager to eat Nodoguro.
The recent surge in Nodoguro’s popularity can be traced back to when tennis player Kei Nishikori expressed his desire to eat Nodoguro in 2014.
Nodoguro, often referred to as the “white tuna belly”, is rich in fat yet without any distinct fishy taste. Whether it’s served as sashimi, sushi, stewed, or grilled, this fish delivers an exquisite taste in every form.
The fat of Nodoguro is abundantly found between the skin and the flesh. It’s said that the flavor intensifies when you grill it without removing the skin. Supporting this claim, grilled Nodoguro with salt is immensely popular.
The formal name for Nodoguro is Akamutsu. It’s said that in regions along the Japan Sea coast, such as Shimane, Nagasaki, and Ishikawa, Akamutsu is referred to as Nodoguro. This naming can be understood from the fact that the fish has a black throat, a characteristic that the local name draws from.
Why Nodoguro is Associated with Kanazawa
In reality, Nodoguro isn’t exclusively caught in the waters near Ishikawa Prefecture. Places like Nagasaki, Shimane, Niigata, and Tokushima are also renowned as Nodoguro-producing areas. Particularly, Nagasaki promotes its variant as “Kotome”, and Shimane has branded its Nodoguro as “Doncicchi Nodoguro”.
Despite the fact that Ishikawa doesn’t promote Nodoguro as vigorously as Nagasaki or Shimane, the association of “Kanazawa with Nodoguro” has grown. The primary reason is likely that Kanazawa, as one of Japan’s foremost tourist destinations, sees more visitors dining on Nodoguro compared to other producing areas.
There’s a subtle difference in Japanese nuance: it’s “When you think of Kanazawa, you think of Nodoguro”, not “When you think of Nodoguro, you think of Kanazawa”. In essence, it’s not “I go to Kanazawa to eat Nodoguro”, but rather “I want to eat Nodoguro because I’m in Kanazawa”.
Furthermore, combining the culinary skills of chefs in the gourmet city of Kanazawa with freshly-caught Nodoguro, visitors often find that the taste surpasses their expectations. Thus, the perception that one “should eat Nodoguro in Kanazawa” continues to spread.
With the rise of social media platforms, especially Instagram, the appearance of dishes has become increasingly important. Given this, dishes featuring Nodoguro crafted by Kanazawa’s chefs are likely to provide a distinct advantage. Thus, the association of “When you think of Kanazawa, you think of Nodoguro” will likely continue to be a firmly held belief in the future.