Shimotsukare is a traditional dish that has been passed down since the Kamakura period (1185-1333). It is made from salted salmon head, roasted soybeans, and roughly grated daikon and carrots simmered together in a thick pot. The daikon and carrots are grated with a wooden tool called oni oroshi that gives the vegetables a crunchy texture. The dish is finished with seasonings like sake lees and soy sauce. It is said that the dish is made with the wisdom of the ancestors as it is nutritionally balanced and has a long shelf life.
Roasted soybeans are part of a festival called Setsubun that takes place in early February. Shimotsukare is traditionally eaten on Hatsu Uma in February when people pray for good health and harvest in the upcoming year. Shimotsukare is now made with ingredients that are on hand. Nearby Gunma, Ibaraki, and Tochigi prefectures also eat this traditional dish.
Most likely the dish can be traced back to the 13th century where a dish called sumutsukari is mentioned in the Uji Shuui Monogatari, a historic collection of stories. Sake lees and soy sauce contribute umami and brings together the salmon heads, roasted soybeans, daikon and carrots. The historic food ritual symbolizes good health and fortune for the family.RECIPE_HEADEND