Tsukudani: Simmer Until Rice’s Best Friend


During the Edo period (1603-1868), the fish market serving the area now known as Tokyo was located in the riverside district of Tsukuda. There, small bruised fish and other seafood and vegetables with little or no commercial value were simmered in a mixture of soy sauce and mirin to retard spoilage. Huge vats of seasoned soy sauce became deeply flavored with each addition of scavenged seafood. If necessary, the mixture was diluted with water.

In the households of those who worked at the market, various kitchen scraps were repurposed by simmering them with soybeans. gohan no tomo (literally translated as “friends of rice”; relish to be served with rice). Salvaged items prepared by soy stew became known as tsukudani, or “simmered Tsukuda style”. Tasty and inexpensive, tsukudani has become a staple among ordinary people.

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