Originating from the snowy town of Myoko in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, Kanzuri is a unique and delicious fermented chili paste made from a blend of red chili peppers, yuzu citrus fruit, salt, and koji. What makes this artisanal paste even more special is only the Kanzuri family company can manufacture and sell it (it’s even difficult to find in Japan outside of Niigata!).
Kanzuri has a distinctive flavor that is both spicy and citrusy, with a slightly sweet and sour taste, and is made using traditional fermentation methods that have been passed down for generations.
7 Years In The Making
The way Kanzuri is made is what distinguishes it. From planting to finished product, the entire process takes about seven years. Contract farmers in Myoko City grow Kanzuri red peppers in the first year, a type of local pepper known for its spiciness and depth of umami. In the fall, the chillies are harvested and salted with natural sea salt.
On the coldest of winter days, the salted peppers are exposed to snow. The snow absorbs the chili peppers' strong bitterness, removes the salt, and softens the spiciness. The peppers are dug up by hand after being buried, usually under a meter of snow. They are then cut into small pieces and combined with salt, koji (rice malt) and the sweet tart peel of yuzu. It is then left to sit and settle for a few months. Finally, it is aged for at least three years to bring out all of its distinct flavors and aroma.
Due to the fermentation process, kanzuri has a deep umami flavor which adds a richness to the condiment. It has a complex flavor profile that is both spicy and citrusy, with a slightly sweet and sour taste. The chili peppers used in the blend provide a moderate to high level of heat, which is balanced by the tangy and aromatic flavor of yuzu citrus fruit.
It is typically used as a seasoning or marinade for a variety of dishes, including meat, fish, vegetables, and tofu. It can also be used as a condiment for sushi and sashimi, adding a bold and spicy flavor to these traditional Japanese dishes.
Today, Kanzuri continues to be produced exclusively by the Kanzuri family in Myoko and the surrounding areas. The process is time-consuming and requires a great deal of skill and patience, which is why Kanzuri is considered a specialty product and is highly prized by food enthusiasts around the world. If you’re looking for a truly unique food experience, kanzuri is a condiment not to be missed.
Try Kanzuri and experience the tradition and craftsmanship of the local specialty.
About the author:
Ailsa van Eeghen
Ailsa has been living in Japan since 2015 all the while enjoying the rich beauty of Kagoshima prefecture. She finds the most joy in exploring little villages, driving around the countryside and exploring the lesser known parts of Japan. Keenly interested in Japan’s regional diversity, you can often find her at michi-no-eki admiring all the local produce. You can find more of her travels and deep dives into Japanese culture on her Instagram @daysofailsa where she writes about her life in Japan.