THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME BEKKO SUSHI
The word bekkozushi came from two root words of “Bekko” and “Sushi”. It was called bekkozushi because its glossy appearance is similar to that of a glossy tortoiseshell color. Bekko (べっこう) in noun means tortoiseshell. And the term sushi (ずし) means “sour-tasting” so the overall dish has a sour and umami or savory taste. Thus, it forms the word bekkozushi which literally means “Tortoiseshell Sushi”.
WHAT IS BEKKO SUSHI?
Sushi is one of the main dishes on Izu Islands such as Izu Oshima, Hachijojima, and Ogasawara Islands. Bekko sushi or tortoiseshell sushi is a traditional food in Japan. It is a local dish of Izu Oshima in Tokyo prefecture. Along with Monjayaki, Shinagawa Meshi, and Fukagawa Meshi, Bekko Sushi is also one of the local dishes in Tokyo Prefecture. There is another type of sushi known in Tokyo for its name called “Edomae Sushi”. Edomae Sushi got its name before the old name of Tokyo which is Edo. If you want more of this interesting history about it, check out Edomae Sushi. Now, compare to Edomae Sushi, Bekko sushi is spicy sushi with fresh white fish soak in chili soy sauce. The name Bekko Sushi came from the fact that the pickled white fish shines in a tortoiseshell color. In making bekko sushi, whitefish like sea bream, tuna, and bonito are used. The spicy soy sauce of green pepper, the vinegared rice, and the sweetness of fresh fish go perfectly together.
ORIGIN OF BEKKO SUSHI
The origin of bekko sushi started on Izu Oshima. However, many don’t still know the details about bekko sushi‘s history. Since there is a transmitted document that came from Izu Oshima around the Meiji era, many conclude that bekko sushi was founded even before the Meiji era. In the Izu Islands, locals developed a unique technique of eating sushi after the Meiji era. The use of mustard instead of wasabi is a remnant of the era when wasabi was not available on Hachijojima and the Ogasawara Islands.
On the other hand, in Izu Oshima, they paired the soy sauce with a strong spicy green pepper instead of using mustard. In the warm region of the Izu Islands, there was difficulty in storing the fish in a fresh state for a long period of time. And so, locals decided to add green pepper to the soy sauce to reduce the bactericidal effect. This technique is also a way to keep the fish fresh for as long as possible. The sweetness of vinegared rice used in making sushi is not strong, and they do not use kneaded rice.
BEKKO SUSHI RECIPES
The recipes of bekko sushi of Izu Oshima are white fish like Spanish mackerel, tuna, sea bream, soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, salt, and lastly, the region’s special ingredients, the green chili pepper. You can replace the green chili pepper with wasabi or mustard instead depending on your taste.
HOW DO LOCALS MAKE BEKKO SUSHI?
If you want to know how do locals make their bekko sushi taste authentic, you can follow these steps. First is the preparation of the tortoiseshell sashimi. Soak the fillets such as white fish in chili soy sauce. The pickling time varies depending on the home and shop, but it is about 20 to 30 minutes. In addition, there are various types of chili soy sauce, such as liquor and a little mirin.
In making chili soy sauce, you can add the desired amount of green pepper to the soy sauce and let it sit for about 2 weeks. But, you can add a little slice of green pepper if you are looking for a pungent spiciness. Second, prepare the rice. It is recommended to shape it to the size you like. After that, put the soaked fish fillet on rice and pressed it to stay in place.
ON WHICH PLACES DO ISLAND SUSHI KNOWN FOR?
There are different island sushi in Japan. These island sushis came from Hachijojima, the home delicious sushi. The island makes Shima sushi with a fish called Hachibiki. The second is from the Ogasawara Islands. Shima sushi is their representative local dish. The third is Daito Islands where they have Daito sushi as their island sushi. And lastly, Izu Oshima, home for Bekko sushi.
WHAT MAKES BEKKO SUSHI UNIQUE TO OTHER ISLAND SUSHI?
An island pepper is thicker, shorter, and spicier than ordinary peppers. You can soak this in soy sauce to make chili soy sauce. When you eat sashimi in the Izu Oshima, you eat it by crushing the green pepper then dipping it in soy sauce to transfer the spiciness on it. This technique is acquired in replacement for using wasabi.
WHAT IS THE RECOMMENDED FISH SASHIMI IN MAKING BEKKO SUSHI?
There are varieties of fish sashimi in Japan and you can pick any fish to make it. Locals recommend using white fish. This white fish includes tuna, sea bream, and Spanish mackerel to get the similar taste of bekko sushi you are looking for.
HOW MUCH DOES BEKKO SUSHI COSTS?
Because Bekko sushi is that of a high-quality dish, expect that its price is quite higher. The price for Bekko sushi ranges from ¥ 1,000 to ¥ 4,000 depending on the store you are eating from and also the menu set you avail.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USING CHILI PEPPER AND WASABI AS A SPICE?
Chili peppers contain more fat-soluble compounds that easily penetrate the cells of the tongue and activate more pain receptors than wasabi does. So that creates a longer-lasting, painful burning sensation.
RECOMMENDED BEKKO SUSHI RESTAURANTS
If you are traveling in Izu Islands and you want to eat their local and authentic dish, try to eat Bekko Sushi. There is a great restaurant called Bekkouzushi at the Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal. Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal is the gateway to the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. This store has been created with the theme of “ships and islands” as a team of culinary researchers, graphic designers, art writers, and architects, from menus to serving, tableware, and interiors. The bekko sushi meal set they offer starts at ¥ 1,000.
Minato Sushi is one of the restaurants which serves exquisite bekko sushi. They have the reputation of serving it in an exquisite and neat appearance. It is a fashionable sushi restaurant with a retro atmosphere. On a daily lunch, the menu ranges from ¥ 2,000 to ¥ 2,999, and during dinner time, its menu varies at ¥ 5,000. When you order the sushi set, you will be having 9 pieces of different kinds on the plate. The shop staff will explain what kind of fish they used on each piece.
Along with the bekko sushi, Sushikou also serves other types of sushi. You will feel that the freshness is different because they use the fresh fish caught on that day they will serve it to you. Bekko sushi is irresistibly delicious because it is easy to chew and is soaked in flavor. The entrance of the store has a Godzilla figurine under the stairs. The store is on the second level of the property.
Ichimine is the perfect shop when you are near the Okada port. It is where you can eat all specialties near the port. It is very close to the waiting area at Okada Port, so you can drop easily inside it. The shop serves a menu set of Bekko sushi and soup together. You can eat the Bekko sushi while looking out at the beautiful scenery outside of the shop.
The next restaurant is Zakoya Kiyomaru. The restaurant is characterized by its elegant entrance and they’ve won 2nd times in a row at a “C-class gourmet championship” event held on the island. This restaurant serves different types of sushi including Bekko sushi but they put a twist on it. Many customers recommend their popular menu “Bekko Don Set Meal”. The tortoiseshell bowl and sashimi, marinated shellfish, soup, and volume are a perfect match together.
Japan has 6,852 islands. Approximately 430 of these are inhabited. Japan is the largest island country in East Asia and the second largest island country in the world. Many thought that living on the island has a big disadvantage. This includes social and geographical isolation, a lack of employment and educational opportunities, transportation problems, and small community challenges. But nobody would have thought that people living on the island are also wise. They make up things based on what resources they have not only because they need it but because they have to. By going with the course of life and by doing improvements, they make a new discovery.