In the Shonan and Kamakura area of Kanagawa, there is one street food that I absolutely love and it’s called jacoyaki (or jakoyaki)
While takoyaki (a popular Japanese snack made of wheat flour-batter and cooked in a molded pan and inside is octopus, tempura, pickled ginger and green onion and sometimes topped with mayonnaise) is well-known, jacoyaki may not be as well-known.
Pretty much it is very similar to takoyaki but one major difference, it’s baby anchovy dumplings. No octopus, it’s straight up anchovies. And topped with green onions, shirasu and mayonnaise with a special sauce on top and I have to say, jacoyaki is delicious!
The sign outside says its made of small sardines and it’s easy to confuse anchovies and sardines as they are small, silvery fish but they are actually two different types of fish.
Sardines are pilchards and is a member of the Clupeidae family and there are 18 different species classified as sardines or pilchards.
Anchovies is a member of the Engraulidae family and there are 140 species of anchovies.
Yes, that’s too scientific for some but the major difference is they taste different. Anchovies have a distinct taste, sardines are not as intense.
But what is jako? Well, you will most likely hear the term “Chirimenjako” which is a shrimp fish that are small and dried in the sun. Sometimes they call the fish Shirasu. Shirasu is what is typically fried and what is usually salted and dried is Chirimenjako.
In the sign near the owner, you will see baby anchovies and that it’s whitebait dumplings. That’s the hint, which means the fish is an immature 1 to 2 inch long fish. And these are tender and considered as a delicacy. You can eat the entire fish.
But Whitebait in Japan is typically pointing to Shirasu and chirimen-jako. Now which version is used…katakuchi-iwashi (juvenile anchovy) or ma-iwashi (juvenile sardine), I’m not sure.
But in the end…whatever is used…it’s quite delicious!
Similar to takoyaki, know that when it comes out, it’s going to be hot. While Japanese are trained to eat hot food at a young age, for a lot of us who didn’t grow up in Japan are not into scalding their tongue or the roof of their mouth. So, make sure you have a drink ready in your bag/backpack before eating jacoyaki.
But the jacoyaki is fluffy and it just melts in your mouth. It’s that good! And it’s also inexpensive.
To find jacoyaki, you will find it on the way to Kotoku-in (where the Great Buddha statue is located). While most restaurants have physical buildings, the company JACOYAKI is literally a food van.
But if you are wanting something quick to eat, definitely give Jacoyaki a try! It’s delicious street food that you will only find in Kamakura or the Shonan area!