Iwashi Gohan Sardine Rice

Home Cooking with Aozakana: Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯

Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯
You’ve got to try this dish! Simple and tasty home cooking with aozakana; just sardines, ginger and rice.

Iwashi (sardine); aozakana

Sardine is called iwashi in Japanese and iwashi is an aozakana (青魚), literally, ‘blue fish’. Blue refers to the color of the back of the fish. Aozakana are in season in autumn and winter in Japan and are rich, oily fish and therefore very tasty and nourishing.

Iwashi Gohan

Iwashi-gohan is very simple to prepare and so, so delicious! Iwashi, as it is an aozakana is big and heavy in flavor, a flavor that might not be for everyone. However, cooking it in rice with ginger and sake mellows out the intensity of the sardine flavor considerably. So, don’t be afraid to give this recipe a try.

Iwashi Gohan
Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯


  • 6-10 whole sardines (depending on size)
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups short grain rice (mugi, rolled oats is a nice addition)
  • fresh ginger julienned
  • 5 tablespoons cooking sake
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (optional)
  • salt
  • dried kombu (optional)
  • scallion


Cleaning the sardines simply involves cutting off the heads and tails, removing the entrails and optionally pulling out the backbone.

Iwashi flesh, especially the belly skin is very soft so gutting the fish is best done by cutting off the bottom 1/4 of the belly on a cutting board. Most of the guts come out with the belly skin. Simply wash out the rest under running water. A gentle pull on the backbone will remove most of it. You can leave it in or take it out.

After cleaning the iwashi place in salt water for several hours. This removes some of the fishiness. If you can get really fresh, sushi quality iwashi, you can probably skip this. Rinse well before adding to the rice.

Use short grain rice if at all possible. Wash the rice thoroughly, until the poured off water is fairly clear. If you are adding mugi (rolled oats) add it after washing the rice. Now in Japan there is ‘washless’ rice (無洗米), but I am assuming that is not common in the English speaking lands. The amount of water needed will depend on your cooking method. The best is an electric rice cooker. Electric rice cookers have markings inside to denote the amount of water needed for various kinds of rice and rice/grain mixtures. If you are cooking rice in a pan on the stove, see the instructions on the rice bag as cooking requirements may vary depending on rice grain size and dryness.

Pour clean, fresh water on the rice, add cooking sake if you have it. Next, add the sardines and julienned ginger. Adding a bit of mirin, salt and dried kombu will enhance the flavor of the finished rice. Cover and cook.

After the iwashi-gohan has finished cooking, remove the kombu and turnover several times with a rice paddle or similar large serving spoon and re-cover for several minutes.

Serve in a large bowl and garnish with chopped scallions.

You may wish to add a small amount of shoyu but it should be sufficiently flavorful.

Iwashi Gohan Ingredients
Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯

Cleaned Sardines
Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯

Iwashi Gohan Ready to Cook
Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯
Kombu and ginger is added and it is ready to cook!

Iwashi Gohan Done
Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯
Note the measuring marks on the inside of the rice cooker that denote the appropriate amount of water for various kinds of rice.

Iwashi Gohan Served
Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯

Iwashi Gohan Served – detail
Iwashi Gohan (Sardine Rice) いわし・鰯ご飯

10 Responses to “Iwashi Gohan Sardine Rice”

  1. Arun says:

    Wow, that looks delicious! I’m always looking for simple dishes with few ingredients, but taste good. I gonna try this out real soon!

  2. Michelle says:

    Hi Paku & Peko,
    This recipe looks so yummy and tasty. Your pictures instruction/direction is clear and easy to follow. Can’t wait to try the recipe. By the way, can we get fresh sardines in the U.S. grocery/supermarket? I only see canned sardines but not sure if the supermarket sells fresh sardines. Please keep the recipes posting coming. Are you guys going do to a recipe post on Onigiri soon? Thank you!!!

  3. Katey B says:

    Mmm. Sardines. Another great fish and another great dish for autumn.

  4. Oooo this looks so good. I saw some iwashi at the local grocery store the other day and it reminded me of your last post, but I was in a meat mood and passed it up, now I wish I hadn’t!

  5. diva says:

    that looks really yummy…think it’s time to head to the fishmonger’s for me!

  6. Tess says:

    Hi PekoPeko,
    What a nice site you have! I’m pretty sure I’ve visited before, but didn’t bookmark. So now I’ll have some interesting reading.
    I’ve got everything to make this recipe. Looks like we’re trading recipes: I’ll try yours, and you mine.

    By the way, in the U.S. there are a couple of good brands of rice from California that don’t require washing.

  7. Marco says:

    Just made this last night and it came out great. I got some Portuguese sardines from the fish market, which are much larger than the ones in your picture (almost twice the size), but still very tasty. I also found that the ginger needs to be julienned very fine or it gets stringy. I wonder if the ginger in the U.S. is more fibrous than in Japan. Anyway, thanks for a great recipe.

  8. […] home cooking that puts a light dinner on the table without muss. It is a recipe inspired by Kyoto Foodie whose blog is dedicated to the culinary culture of Kyoto, Japan. I was cooking only for myself, […]

  9. Stephanie says:

    This looks amazing. I’ll be trying it very soon!


    Not all supermarkets carry sardines fresh. Ask whoever manages the seafood display. If they don’t normally carry them they are sometimes willing to special order them for you.

  10. […] around bones as we ate. What I really can’t wait to do is make Sardine Rice, a recipe I found here. Posted by jeanne Filed in Fish, Grill Leave a Comment […]

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