Japan – Chinmi: Salt-pickled Mullet Roe/ Kusaya

by Zayna Khan

This is a Japanese delicacy and is supposed to be the rare and expensive food of Japan. This is a popular and unique dish because it is Pickled seafood by adding preservatives. This is mostly dry but salted fish or any other seafood. This is not a dish or a meal but can be served with many other dishes. This is prepared and it took lots of time and patience. Proper time, light, humidity, and temperature are required. The taste of this dish depends upon these factors. The main ingredient is any seafood you love to have in the pickled form. It is also prepared by an ovary filled with eggs of any fish. There are many different ways to make it even more flavorful by adding spices and aromas with seasonings.

There is a way for dehydration, drying, proper firmness, and salting-out till the desired texture is obtained. It is served with rice, miso soup, vegetables, and seafood fried items, etc. Rice bowl served with salted seafood known to be as Chinmi.

There is a common sentence used to name this delicacy as ”THREE CHINMI OF JAPAN”.

  • Kusaya 
  • Funazushi 
  • Kurozukuri


Karasumi is a food prepared by salting and drying MULLET ROE. It is dried by sunlight or dry oven and many other methods. There is Japanese calligraphy formed by using INKSTICK, a block of SUMI, and this dish is resembled by this calligraphy. The drying procedure required time to dry completely.

It also resembles BOTTARGA. This is also a delicacy of the Mediterranean.

SEA URCHIN is a delicacy of Nagasaki.

Mullet or Japanese Spanish mackerel is used in this delicacy. This is pickled for 4 to 7 days. First, this is soaked in fresh water and then dried in the direct sunlight to get a traditional taste of the delicacy.

Karasumi (唐墨)” literally means “Chinese ink” because it resembles the INKSTICK of Japanese calligraphy in China. This is shaped like Chinese block ink and also looks like it.


Japanese best three chinmi are selected from the EDO PERIOD (1603 to 1868). They are also named as Japanese three delicacies.

Kusaya (くさや)

Kusaya is a special fish from the Izu Island chain, Tokyo. And special fish taken from this island are ”horse mackerel and flying fish” First of all these fish are fermented by using BRINE. This is for the particular smell and flavor after drying.

This delicacy is known for its stinky smell and awful odor. But despite the smell, it is a very flavorful and delicious delicacy. It is said that it has UMAMI flavor and is included in healthy food items.

“Kusaya Eki (くさや液)” is the variant of this delicacy because it is fermented in liquid salt. This is the reason for getting the nutrition and minerals.

This is also known by the phrase ” SMELLY BUT YUMMY DRIED FISH

Funazushi (鮒寿司)

Funazushi (鮒寿司) is very similar to Kusaya because of the same stinky smell. But this is prepared like a meal when crucian carps and rice are fermenting using lactic acid in the form of bacteria. This is served with rice and dried ROE because to give the texture. The flavor of dried roe is very similar to the cheese but you cannot get rid of the smell.

This is served as ancient sushi at EDO Period. It is also known as SHIGA FUNAZUSHI.

Kurozukuri (黒作り)

This is the third delicacy of Chinmi and the regional delicacy of Toyama. This is the salted fermented BLACK SQUID.

There is also a dish known as IKA NO SHIOKARA. This is the fusion of Squid Ink from Black Squid and squid Shiokara. Squid ink is the black color obtained from the Black Squid. It is very effective and has antibiotic effects against some infections.


The history of Japanese cuisine revolved around the main three ERA. There are the basic origins of Japanese culture started from KOFUN PERIOD 3rd to 7th centuries, the formation of the Yamato dynasty was started from there. At that time, the eating of Mammals was considered Taboo but the tradition changed and new customs are formed. New Periods were formed and a new culture was introduced.

There is the Japanese tradition of the following period.

Heian period (794 to 1185)

In this period the use of rice in different dishes was common. The cultivation of rice was also at its peak. Rice at that time was boiled plain and called the Japanese names: Gohan or meshi. The influences of the Chinese culture like the use of chopsticks was directed during this period. The Chinese culture was introduced during the 8th century. The dishes consumed during that days were the usage of seafood, yakimono, steamed foods, simmered food, etc.

These dishes are served with SAKE. The use of a legless table is called an oshiki. The table with legs called a zen. These are tables used and called as the traditional way of presenting food at dinner tables.

There were four foods presented to the court at Heian Period :

  • Dried foods (himono)
  • Fresh foods (namamono)
  • Fermented, dressed food (kubotsuki)
  • Desserts (kashi)

Kamakura period (1192-1333)

During the Kamakura period, the SAMURAI controlled the Japanese countryside. The samurai followed the earlier banquet style. The shōgun banquet is called ōban. The cuisine of Samurai was based on authentic traditions. They avoided the influenced cultures of Chinese and Korean cuisine and established the Authentic Japanese tradition.


There are the varieties of this dish that are different from areas and region :



This dish is a very famous dish from the Matsumae Area of Hokkaido, Japan. This dish is prepared by the following ingredients to be dried and pickled and mixed to form a dish.

  • Surume (dried squid)
  • Konbu (edible kelp)
  • Kazunoko (Hard roe)
  • Carrot slices
  • Ginger slices
  • Sake
  • Soya sauce


This is the delicacy of Japanese cuisine. In this dish, the kidney of Chum Salmon is pickled put by using salted solution or brine. Chum salmon is also known as Dog Salmon or Keta salmon. This remains in the solution until the salted solution changed into dark brown color and then this is served with Sake or Alcohol.

The main ingredients are :

  • Kidney of Chum Salmon
  • Brine solution


This is dried or pickled Komai fish and also known as SAFFRON COD. There are different methods of serving and eating this delicacy :

  • This is eaten as it is in the dried and pickled form.
  • This is served with any kind of sauce like soya sauce.
  • It is broiled and served.
  • This is served like a dip or spread when mixed with mayoniese.



This is a Japanese delicacy in which the liver of MONKFISH or Ankofish is served either in the pickled form or dried form.

This is prepared by following steps:

  • Rubbing of liver in salt to remove the odor.
  • Rinsing of liver of monkfish in sake and soaking for 20 minutes.
  • Liver is rolled into the cylinderical shape.
  • This rolled liver is either steamed and served or serve raw as it is in the cylinderical form.


The fish is taken from IZU LAND and then the fermentation procedure takes place by salting out. This is known by the stinky and Pungent smell or odor. This is eaten with sake.


  • Squid
  • Codfish
  • Kolay
  • Kisu
  • Ayu
  • Anago
  • Whiting
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Ray
  • Yellowfin Seabeam
  • Silver Pomfret
  • Greenback Mullet
  • Haddock
  • Cat fish
  • Tangra
  • Cutlass fish


  •  Fresh mackerel scad : 4
  • fermented brine/ Kusaya Eki (くさや液) : 2 glass


  • Take this fresh fish and clean it from internal organs and wash it properly. If required take open cut fish for this preparations.
  • Now wash it properly to make it clean and fresh.
  • Take Kusaya Eki and dip whole opne cut fish in it for atleast 24 to 48 hours.
  • You can minimize the time by 6 to 24 hours.
  • Remove fermented fish and dry it in the sunlight.
  • Drying in the sunlight takes around 2 to 4 hours for dry completely.
  • It is ready to serve 🙂

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