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Japan

Waiter, there's a sardine in my sake

Chefs and brewers alike getting creative with traditional soup ingredient

Ibuki sardines must be boiled within 30 minutes of being unloaded from the boat.

TAKAMATSU, Japan -- A broth known as dashi in Japan is essential to one of the country's favorite dishes. And the quality of the sardines and seaweed that make dashi often determine how well that dish -- udon -- tastes.

One tiny island -- part of a group of islets in the Seto Inland Sea, between Japan's main Honshu and Shikoku islands -- is known as one of best locations for iriko, or dried small sardines, in terms of volume and quality. Ibuki Island, about a square kilometer in land mass, belongs to the city of Kanonji, Kagawa Prefecture, on Shikoku. Kagawa is famous for Sanuki udon, the soup for which cannot be made without Ibuki iriko.

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