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Sakai City’s Food Specialties

Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab

Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab is available from November 6th to around March 20th, marking it as a winter delicacy. Throughout this article, we will explore the secrets behind the deliciousness of this variety of crab, introduce a guided tour of the crab auctions, and showcase the variety of exquisite crab dishes crafted from this exceptional marine product. By the end, you’ll undoubtedly already be planning your trip to taste this crab for yourself!

Sakai City’s Magnificent Food Specialty: Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab

The Cream of the Crop: Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab

Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab pertain to the finest male snow crabs caught in Fukui Prefecture, esteemed to the extent that they are annually presented to the Imperial House of Japan! Male snow crabs caught at the ports of Fukui Prefecture are marked with yellow tags on their legs as proof of origin. Amongst them, those caught at Mikuni Minato that meet stringent quality benchmarks are affixed with designated tags that show they are of quality worthy of being presented as offerings to places like the Imperial House of Japan. The cream of the crop, however, are the ones caught at Mikuni Minato that meet both quality and size benchmarks! These are certified as Echizen crab “Kiwami.” Every year, fishing for these crabs is carried out from November 6th to March 20th. In addition to large male crabs, females, known as “Seiko Crabs,” are also caught from November 6th till the end of December. Seiko Crabs are recognized by the roe in their bellies and the roe on the outer shell, prized for their popping texture. The vivid red roe inside the shell, often dubbed “red diamond,” is popular among gourmets for its firm texture and mouthwatering, rich taste.。

Unique Night Auction!

Typically, auctions are held early in the morning, but at Mikuni Minato, there’s a unique evening auction from 6:00 pm. Ships that depart in the middle of the night return to the port by the following evening, where auctions begin at 6:00 pm. Goods sold here are promptly shipped to various destinations both within and outside of the prefecture on the same night. Thus, while auctions at other ports get started in the early mornings, the crabs at Mikuni Minato have already reached their nationwide destinations. The “Evening Auction Guided Tour,” the sole tour of its kind in the prefecture, offers the opportunity to experience the evening auction firsthand. The first half of the tour schedule, involving an actual tour of the auction, is free. The latter part, which is optional and requires a fee, includes a showcase of how crabs are selected, a demonstration of how to prepare crab for eating, and an actual tasting session.

So Juicy! Mizu-Gani Crabs

Mizu-Gani Crab, a Rare Delicacy!

When visiting Mikuni Minato during crab season, be sure to also taste Mizu-gani, which are male crabs that have recently molted. Although the fishing season runs from February 19th to March 20th, they are a rare delicacy seldom found on the market. They are distinguished by their soft shells and moist flesh, which easily separates from the shell, and their reasonable price.

Why Is Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab So Special?

The Secret Lies in the Abundance of Food

Mikuni Minato Echizen Crabs primarily come from fishing grounds around the waters off Mikuni Minato and near the border of Ishikawa Prefecture. Located deep on the seabed, these crabs feed on abundant food sources amidst the complex currents, resulting in sweet and firm flesh as they grow.

Interview with Mr. Hirano – Catching Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab and Fukui Sweet Shrimp for 48 Years!

Fishing Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab involves departing in the middle of the night, catching the crabs around 35 kilometers from the port, and returning in time for the evening market the following day. The immediacy of this fishing area contributes to the freshness and deliciousness of the crabs. I believe the best way to enjoy them is boiled without any additional seasoning. Regarding the future direction of the fishery cooperative, our goal is to fish sustainably, safeguarding the resources for the next generation. The number of fishing boats lining up at this port has decreased from 42 when I was a child to only nine. As we have yet to fully comprehend the habitat of crabs, we are unable to pursue aquaculture at the moment. Therefore, in 2018, the government registered this area under the “Geographical Indication (GI) Protection System” to safeguard local agricultural, forestry, and fishery products as brands. The only snow crabs registered under GI are those from Fukui Prefecture. By enhancing the value of Fukui’s crabs, we hope to treasure our limited resources. Kazumi Hirano Representative Director of the Mikuni Port Fisheries Cooperative

Delicious Ways to Appreciate Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab

Boiled, Grilled, Sashimi – So Many Options!

Before digging into Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab, let’s learn some basics of Japanese crab cuisine. Firstly, it’s worth talking about “kani-su” (crab vinegar) and “kani miso,” commonly found in restaurants. Kani-su, often accompanying boiled crab, is a sweet and savory vinegar infused with a rich dashi flavor. Kani miso has a rich and unique flavor. Dipping crab meat into kani-su or kani miso enhances its sweetness and umami. Be sure to try it!
Now, let’s introduce some typical ways to enjoy crab:
– Boiled: While a simple method, achieving the perfect balance of saltiness and knowing when it’s ready requires skill and a fresh product, making it ideal when the crab is sourced locally.
– Sashimi: A way to savor fresh crab possible only near the source. The meat is prepared to look like a flower in bloom, melting in your mouth as you eat it.
– Grilled: The fragrant aroma of grilled crab stimulates the appetite, while the reduction in moisture concentrates the flavor, resulting in a delightful culinary experience.
– Hot pot: Alongside crab, ingredients such as leeks, greens, and mushrooms are simmered in broth. The rich umami from the crab and vegetables infuses the soup, resulting in a flavorful dish.

Interview with the Proprietor of Oyado Araya – An Accommodation Facility That Offers Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab

Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab is delicious because the waters around Mikuni are deep and there’s plenty of mud and sedimentation, creating an excellent feeding ground for crabs. They are caught in Mikuni Minato, auctioned, and delivered to nearby shops while still alive. Freshness is crucial for crabs. Due to their high umami content, they deteriorate quickly after death. While you can freeze them on the boat, that diminishes the taste, and the precious kani miso becomes inedible. Therefore, tasting a whole crab is a treat unique to places where live crabs are available. Another crab option to try is Seiko Crab. But to ensure they can be fished in the future, they are only available for fishing and consumption for two months, in November and December. Their outer and inner roes, together with their kani miso, are just superb. At Oyado Araya, we show our guests the star of the dish, Mikuni Minato Echizen Crab, before cooking it. This is possible only because we are a small inn. With such high-quality ingredients, there’s no need for elaborate preparations. Please enjoy the genuine taste of crab prepared with simple cooking methods.

Tetsuya Arakawa
Oyado Araya, Tojinbo Mikuni Onsen

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