Heshiko (へしこ)

Heshiko, salted mackerel in rice-bran paste, is a local dish and a processed marine product.

Heshiko developed as a local food of Wakasa Province, and is still appreciated as preserved food for winter. At present, as local specialties and souvenirs of Wakasa, different kinds of fish have been added to the variety: sardine for Iwashi Heshiko and puffer fish for Fugu Heshiko, and Heshiko remains popular in the Kansai region, especially in Kyoto.

Heshiko which is grilled after lightly washing off rice-bran paste goes with sake or rice with green tea. Fresh ones can be enjoyed as sashimi (fresh slices of raw fish) as well.

Origin of the word
There are various theories about the origin of the name and two are widely accepted: one says that the verb 'Heshikomu' describes the action of fishers' salting fish in a barrel and the word 'Heshikomareta mono' (things salted in a barrel) was abbreviated to 'Heshiko' whereas the other says that 'Heshiko' is a corruption of 'Hishio,' the name of the juice which comes out when fish are salted.

There is an extraordinary opinion on the origin of this word. The theory holds that the word 'Heshiko' may have come from the Jomon or Yayoi period. There is also a way to decipher such ancient languages. There is a possibility that many archaic terms of the Jomon or Yayoi period have been preserved in the Ainu language.
In the Ainu language, Heshiko becomes pe-si-kor: pe meaning the liquid coming out of something, si, in this case, meaning 'it' and kor meaning 'maintain' or 'create.'
If the word means 'the liquid coming out maintains it,' 'Heshiko' is a piece of ancient wisdom to prevent fish from rotting and to preserve them for a long time, while if the word means 'the liquid coming out creates it,' it can be understood as a means to create its unique flavor.

Other facts
As 'saba no heshiko,' it was chosen as one of the hundred best local dishes from rural areas in December, 2007.

For people who are not used to smelly food like kusaya (horse mackerel dipped in salt water and dried in the sun), its smell is rather strong.

[Original Japanese]