• Kyodo

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Eateries across Fukui have been serving fish dishes using seafood products that otherwise would be discarded as part of an initiative to promote the prefecture through its regional delicacies.

Under the project initiated by representatives of four fisheries cooperatives from Fukui, local eateries can benefit from a free but irregular supply of fish of uneven size, and attract customers through a rare menu addition.

The fish dishes, ranging from typical seafood to deep-fried croquettes to cater to the palates of people who like Western, Japanese or Chinese cuisine, are called otomashii don in the local dialect, a nickname that roughly means a bowl that could have been or shouldn’t be wasted.

The species include aji (horse mackerel), sardines and flying fish, which is uncommon in Fukui waters or menus in the area.

Since the launch of the project on Marine Day on July 18, 31 eateries from seven cities and towns in the prefecture have joined the movement.

The eateries will receive their share of the fish with financial support from the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Nippon Foundation through the end of September.

Given that the catches are hard to sustain, meaning delivery volumes can vary greatly, the eateries serving bowls of fish that would otherwise be discarded display identical banners to inform customers of their availability.

At his restaurant in the city of Fukui, 69-year-old Toshikazu Watanabe serves up bowls of gyoza (dumplings) with fish that normally wouldn’t be destined for consumption, covered in a thick brown demiglace sauce.

Many customers who come for lunch order bowls with pieces of juicy fish cooked in red wine, which helps reduce strong, fishy smells and pushes out the moisture, just as with tender meat.

“Under the project, we mainly get small fish, which are hard to prepare and cook, but I prefer to help see them consumed than have them thrown away,” Watanabe said.

According to the Fukui Prefectural Government’s fisheries section, more than half of fishermen’s catches of species deemed unusable are disposed of or end up in fertilizers.

The prefecture’s 2011 data thus suggest that this is what happened to about 10 percent of the 7,610 tons of fish that were captured using fixed nets in Fukui’s waters.

“I hope more people will learn that fish not destined for markets can also be served and enjoyed if cooked the proper way,” said the project’s initiator, Takumi Asai, 47.

Asai and other members of the project are seeking ways to stabilize supplies of the fish.

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