Tsuruga/Wakasa Gourmet Column

What is Heshiko, a local dish of Fukui? How to eat it and recommended restaurants.

Heshiko, or pickled fish, is a traditional local dish representative of Fukui Prefecture. This section introduces the characteristics of heshiko, the origin of its name, and delicious ways to eat it. We also pick up stores in the Reinan (Tsuruga/Wakasa) area of Fukui Prefecture where you can easily eat heshiko. Some items can be taken out or ordered, so please enjoy the taste of Fukui.

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Heshiko is a local dish of Fukui, selected as one of the "Local Cuisines of Japan" by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. First, let's take a look at what kind of food heshiko is, its meaning, and its origin.

Fish dipped in rice bran

Heshiko is fish such as mackerel that has been pickled in salt and then cured in salted rice-bran paste for at least six months. It is a traditional local dish in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture and along the Echizen coast. It is said to have been made around the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867) as a preserved food to survive the cold winters with heavy snowfall.

In December 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced that it had been selected as one of the 100 best local dishes of Japan. Saba-narezushi" (mackerel narezushi) made with heshiko was recognized in 2006 as "Ark of Taste" (Slow Food Association International Headquarters/Italy), which is called the World Heritage of Food.

The name comes from "heshikomu" (to press down).

There are various theories as to the origin of the name, but the most popular theory is that it comes from "heshikomu," meaning to push fish into a barrel. In the Wakasa region, "heshikomu" means to "forcefully push in" and is believed to have been shortened to "heshiko. Another theory is that the name "heshiko" is derived from "hishio," the water that comes out of the fish when it is pickled in salt.

Fukui's mackerel has supported the food culture of the capital.

The Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture has long supported the capital's food culture by delivering salt and marine products to the capital as a "mitsukuni" (province of food). Among seafood, salted mackerel was the main product transported, so much so that the road connecting Wakasa and Kyoto was called the "Saba Kaido" (mackerel road). Heshiko is also made from sardines, squid, and pufferfish, but the most famous type is made from mackerel.

In Fukui, "Konuka Iwashi" (pickled sardines) is also available. Because it is a preserved food, it is eaten throughout the year and is also used as a delicacy for special occasions such as "nare-zushi.
Today, it is less common to cook it at home, but it is still popular as a local specialty and souvenir.

Delicious way to eat heshiko

Grilling heshiko is the standard way to eat it, but there are many other ways to arrange heshiko, such as in ochazuke (rice marinated in green tea), pasta, and pizza. Here, we will introduce some delicious ways to eat heshiko.

The standard way to eat "Bake"

Grill or grill lightly. You can leave the bran on or wash it off as you like. Grilling the mackerel with the bran on makes it more savory. Grilling allows the fat of the mackerel to seep out, giving it a salty and delicious flavor. It is perfect as an accompaniment to rice or as a snack.

"Sashimi" only when fresh

Fresh ones can be eaten as sashimi without being grilled. After removing the bran, cut into thin slices and eat. It will be matured in salted and pickled water, and you will enjoy its smoky flavor. You can eat it as it is, but we also recommend putting sliced daikon radish on top and pouring lemon juice.

"Chazuke" recommended for first-timers

Lightly grilled heshiko is placed on hot rice and served with tea or dashi broth. The tea or soup stock dilutes the saltiness of the heshiko, and the fat from the heshiko melts into the rice, giving it an exquisite taste. It is also recommended for those who have never had heshiko before or do not like salty taste. You can also arrange it with condiments such as green onion, sesame, plum, and aojiso (green perilla) to your liking.

"Pasta and Pizza" with addictive flavor and saltiness

Like anchovies, they are also addictively delicious in Western-style arrangements, such as in pasta and pizza. Anchovies are salted anchovies, and heshiko (dried sardines) dipped in salt and bran can also be used. Adding rice bran as a garnish also enhances the taste.

Restaurants where you can eat heshiko in the Reinan area of Fukui Prefecture

Here are some recommended restaurants in the Reinan area of Fukui Prefecture where you can casually eat heshiko. Some ryokans also offer only meals without overnight stay, so please check them out.

Heshiko pasta with a chewy texture is the specialty at "pasta & pancake Hama Cafe"


Heshiko Lemon Cream Mackerel Pasta with Lemon

Hama Cafe is located at Roadside Station Wakasa Mihama Hamabiyori, where you can enjoy homemade fresh pasta and pancakes. A popular dish at this restaurant is "Heshiko Lemon Cream Mackerel Pasta," which has a fresh lemon flavor and the aged taste of heshiko mushrooms to whet your appetite. The homemade noodles used are a blend of wheat flour and Mihama rice flour, giving them a chewy texture. For dessert, we recommend the pancakes filled with plenty of cream. They are so cute that you will want to take a picture of them.

At the roadside station on the premises, you can also purchase agricultural products that are the pride of Mihama producers as souvenirs.
Address 1F, 35-15-1 Matsubara, Mihama-cho, Mikata-gun, Fukui 919-1122, Japan
(福井県三方郡美浜町松原35-15-1 はまびより内1F)
Telephone number 090-1394-0131
Business hours 9:30 - 18:00
Closed Monday
*Please confirm details in advance.
Reference sites Hama Cafe

"Ajidokoro Nomura" is a must-try for its mildly flavored heshiko tendon.

味処 乃むらの外観

Appearance of Ajidokoro Nomura

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This is a restaurant where you can enjoy freshly caught fish from Tsuruga Bay with delicious sake. Since the fish is purchased at the fish market every day, the menu changes daily and the recommended dish of the day is served. The heshiko tempura rice bowl with battered and deep-fried heshiko is a specialty. The heshiko tempura is served on top of a bed of white rice topped with dashi broth and a layer of yam spread on top. Tempura heshiko gives a mild taste.
Address 6-27 Sakura-machi, Tsuruga City, Fukui 914-0078, Japan
Telephone number 0770-25-7139
Business hours 17:30-21:30 (L.O. 21:00)
Closed Sunday
Please confirm details in advance.
Reference website
Ajidokoro Nomura (味処 乃むら)

"Natasho Soba Restaurant Yottettei" where you can eat heshiko rice balls.

名田庄そば処 よってっ亭の外観

Exterior view of Natasho Soba Restaurant, Yokottei

This soba restaurant is attached to Roadside Station Natanosho. Its popular dish is "yam soba" made with yam, a specialty of the Natanosho area of Ooi Town. Onigiri (rice balls) made with heshiko are available, so why not try them with soba as a set? Saba-soba, soba topped with simmered mackerel, is also a unique taste.
Address 109-1-1, Notaoi, Natasyo, Ooi-machi, Oi-gun, Fukui 917-0375, Japan
Telephone number 0770-67-3788
Business hours 10:30-17:00 (subject to seasonal changes)
Closed Wednesdays
*Please confirm details in advance.
Reference site
Natasho Soba Restaurant, Yottettei (名田庄そば処 よってっ亭)

"Anagura Momonji" has a full heshiko menu.

Appearance of Anagura Momonji

Appearance of Anagura Momonji

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A popular izakaya in Mihama-cho, a 5-minute walk from Mihama Station and easily accessible. We offer a wide variety of Mihama's specialty heshiko menu, including grilled heshiko, heshiko sashimi, heshiko chazuke, and heshiko pasta. In addition, there are many other excellent meat and fish dishes such as fresh seasonal fish and gibier dishes using deer and wild boar. Try them with Fukui's local sake.
Address 36-1-1 Matsubara, Mihama-cho, Mikata-gun, Fukui 919-1122
Telephone number 0770-32-3131
Business hours 18:00-23:00
Closed Sunday
Please confirm details in advance.
Reference site Anagura Momonji - Mikata-gun Fukui (あなぐら ももんじ)

"Café Pine" specializes in heshiko spaghetti with refreshing tomatoes.

喫茶 Pineのへしこパスタ

Cafe Pine's Heshiko Pasta

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This long-established coffee shop has been in business at Tsuruga Station for about 40 years. It has been serving spaghetti made with heshiko mackerel for about 10 years. By breaking up the heshiko and tossing it in homemade tomato sauce and olive oil, the unique flavor of the heshiko matches the acidity of the tomatoes perfectly, giving it a deep flavor. In addition to heshiko spaghetti, there are about 20 other pasta dishes on the menu.
Address 1-15 Shirogane-cho, Tsuruga City, Fukui 914-0054
Telephone number 0770-24-0958
Business hours 9:00 - 21:00
Closed Mondays, 3rd and 5th Sundays
Please confirm details in advance.
Reference site
Cafe Pine

"Shokusai Goen", where you can taste heshiko both raw and grilled.

Shokusai Goen, a popular local restaurant with a view of Wakasa Bay in front of it, offers mainly a set menu for lunch and a la carte dishes and drinks at night. The proprietress personally visits the market to purchase fresh seafood from Obama. The charm of this restaurant is that you can enjoy the seasonal local fish dishes such as rock oysters in summer and crabs and pufferfish in winter. Heshiko is available raw, grilled, or with grated radish, and goes well not only with sake, but also with white rice, so it is recommended to finish with ochazuke (rice with green tea).
Address 57-2 Obama Hiyoshi, Obama City, Fukui 917-0068
Telephone number 0770-53-0770
Business hours Lunch 11:30-14:00
Dinner 17:00-23:00
Closed Wednesdays
*Please confirm details in advance.

Heshiko, a recommended souvenir from the Reinan area of Fukui Prefecture

Finally, here are some recommended heshiko that can be taken out or ordered. How about a souvenir of Fukui's Reinan region for your family, friends, and other close people?

Chidori-en: Heshiko Bottled Series" for easy consumption

Chidori-en offers many varieties of heshiko, from the standard mackerel heshiko to the more unusual bottled heshiko flakes. The bottled series can be used as a substitute for furikake (sprinkled on rice) or as a seasoning for a wide range of dishes.
Address 43-3-1 Sakajiri, Mihama-cho, Mikata-gun, Fukui 919-1208
Telephone number 0770-38-1011
Business hours 10:00-16:00
Closed December 31 - January 1
*Please confirm details in advance.
Reference site
Heshiko of Chidori-en (千鳥苑のへしこ)

Ooi: Wakasa Ooi Saba Heshiko Chazuke (Mackerel Heshiko Chazuke), winner of the Fukui Prefecture Excellent Tourist Souvenir New Product Category Award

Processed using a unique dry process, this ochazuke stock is made with dashi broth and ingredients. It is made from heshiko without chemical seasonings created by "Tamatebako," a processing club of the local women's department of a fishing cooperative. This product has received numerous awards, including the 4th Fukui Prefecture Excellent Tourist Souvenir New Product Category Award, National Tourist Souvenir Federation Recommended Product, and National Tourist Souvenir Federation Chairman's Effort Award.
Address 159-8-1 Hongo, Ooi-machi, Oi-gun, Fukui 919-2111
Phone number 0770-77-2811
Business hours 9:00-17:00
Closed Saturday - Sunday, National holidays, Year-end and New Year holidays
*Please confirm details in advance.
Reference site Ooi no Umaimon Ooi Shopping Site (おおいのうまいもん おおいショッピングサイト)

Many delicious heshiko restaurants in the Reinan area of Fukui Prefecture

Heshiko, a salted and pickled fish such as mackerel, is a traditional preserved food that has been handed down from generation to generation. Today, heshiko is still popular as a local specialty and souvenir, and is also available as a pasta or pizza dish. In the Reinan area of Fukui Prefecture, there are many restaurants serving delicious heshiko, all of which are worth a try. We hope you will visit one of them!

The information is current as of January 2024. Information is subject to change without notice.