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Food and Living  
Chirashi-zushi A Food to Share A Food for the 21st Century
A Specialty of the Seto Inland Sea Region
The History of Sushi
A Food to Share

A Specialty of the Seto Inland Sea Region

Barazushi, a specialty of the city of Okayama in Okayama Prefecture, is a particularly well-known regional variety of chirashi-zushi. This local dish is famous for having more than a dozen ingredients, foremost of which is Spanish mackerel, a fish common to the Seto Inland Sea. Spanish mackerel flavors the whole dish: the same vinegar in which the mackerel is marinated for barazushi is used in preparing the vinegared rice, and the vegetables used for topping are stewed in broth prepared with the mackerel.
Large numbers of Spanish mackerel are caught every spring when they come to spawn in the shallows of the Seto Inland Sea just off Okayama. The catch used to be so plentiful that visitors who came during the season were given a whole fish to take home, though much of it would go bad before it could be eaten. Marinating leftovers for barazushi was one solution to stop such waste.
“Spanish mackerel is what gave the final refining touch to barazushi,” says Seiichi Kubota, owner of Fukuzushi, a sushi shop in Okayama. Fukuzushi will prepare barazushi if orders are placed ahead of time. It can take a good two days to prepare the famous dish. Ingredients that are dried have to be reconstituted and vegetables have to be chopped and stewed. In the past such tasks were shared among the households of a neighborhood. Kubota remains faithful to the traditional methods because, he says, he wants his customers to enjoy the authentic barazushi flavor.
“They say barazushi can be enjoyed three times: First there is the visual enjoyment of the colorful arrangement; then you taste the ingredients on top while sipping sake; and finally, you savor the flavorful rice mixture underneath. This is a local dish that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family, young and old. It remains an essential item for celebrations and other kinds of gatherings here in Okayama.”
As one might guess, barazushi is available as a box lunch typically associated with Okayama Station. In a peach-shaped container—eminiscent of Momotaro, a local hero who was born from a peach-ocally produced Bizenmai sushi rice is decorated with strips of stir-fried egg, shiitake, shrimp, and mushrooms, as well as mamakari, a type of locally—caught shad. A visual as well as gastronomical treat, indeed!

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