In the local dialect, “dorome” means sardine fry; and it’s made with various local varieties sardines or anchovies. The name is said to originate from “in the mud (doro) all you can see is their eyes (me)” or from the fact that you can catch a lot in the muddy waters after a storm. Their bodies are transparent and hard to see, but their eyes are visible. Dorome are caught all around Japan, but the ones caught in the sea near Kochi are known to be especially high quality due to the nutritious, clean river waters in the area, such as those of the Niyodo River. They are said to be most delicious when eaten raw, but as they do not stay fresh for very long, they are only served this way in locations where they are fished. Locally, it is popular to mix them with Tosa Nuta, a miso paste with grated garlic leaves, or to season them with yuzu ponzu sauce, but they are also eaten as tempura with tofu and onion wrapped in perilla leaves, or made into soup with tofu, soy sauce, salt, and sake.
Chirimen-jako is dorome which has been boiled immediately after being caught. There are other names depending on how the finished product is prepared; “kama-age” refers to fresh fish just boiled in salt water which is tender and salty. Once they have been further sun-dried they’re then called “joboshi”, which are chewy and have a stronger flavor. The same sardines can be enjoyed many different ways by changing up seasonings and means of preparation.