Shirasu is boiled and dried baby anchovy or sardines, and it's one of those ingredients that's used in homestyle Japanese cuisine. Normally, here in the US, you would buy them in packs in the freezer case at the Japanese market. They show up in things like sunomono (vinegared cucumber salad), onigiri (rice balls), furikake, etc. I've always thought they added a nice fishy flavor to any given dish, but never gave them much more thought than it being a secondary ingredient. Until this week.
A Japanese friend of mine here in NYC went to visit her parents during Golden Week (major Japanese holidays at the beginning of May) and she brought back a bunch of fishy stuff. Her parents run a fish wholesale/retail business in Shizuoka prefecture and they specialize in shirasu, tarako (cod roe), and hokke (akta mackerel). She explained that this shirasu was caught and processed (which means lightly boiled in salt water, and dried) the morning of her flight back to NYC. And we were eating some a day and a half later. Grabbing them by the handful, we either ate it straight, or on top of rice. This might have been some of the best stuff I've eaten in a while. These didn't have the saltiness I associate with dried fish, and being so fresh, it tasted a lot more like sashimi than the stuff I'm used to eating. She also explained that since this is a specialty of Shizuoka region, it's difficult to find stuff this fresh; they don't even get to Tsukiji for distribution.
I've been enjoying a pack this week, eating it with a little grated daikon radish and just a little dashi soy sauce. I just ran out and feeling a little remorse after eating something so simple, yet so delectable, and knowing I won't be able to have any more until I go to Japan. Also, paying for a bag of the frozen stuff at the Japanese market won't make me feel any better either. I don't think I can go to Japan without getting a bunch of this stuff.