Many of our guests ask what “aigamo” is.
Some take a guess based on “ainoko” (crossbreed) and “kamo” (duck),
saying it must be a crossbreed between “kamo” (wild duck) and “ahiru” (domesticated duck).
And they are exactly right.
Usually, the word “kamo” refers to the mallard, or wild duck. There are many other kinds, such as the Eurasian teal, the spot-billed duck, the northern pintail, and the Eurasian wigeon.
The male wild duck is often called “aokubi” due to its green head.
It is a wild bird, so it is pursued by hunters in the fall.
On the other hand, “ahiru” is a domesticated duck,
written “house duck” in kanji in China and Taiwan.
I suppose you could call it a foreign species.
Now, with the aigamo, we usually simply call it “naki.”
This comes from names such as “nakiahiru” (call duck) and “sendainaki.”
It’s a loud and boisterous bird, so in days past
they kept thieves away from the roost with their squawking.
Aigamo are crossbred by humans, but according to some,
there are records of “naki” from the Edo period (1603-1868).
(These “naki” were wild ducks that had been domesticated over many years, rather than crossbred.)
When the Shogun (the ruler of Japan at the time) would go to his bayside villa to hunt wild ducks, they would use decoys.
When wild ducks appeared on the lake, the decoy’s call would lure them to the lakeshore
to be captured by nets.
So some wild ducks were chosen to be kept like chickens year-round for use as decoys.
Perhaps one day, well before the duck migration season,
the officials and guards in charge of the decoy ducks quietly tried eating one
and found that it tasted far better than the wild ducks that arrived in the winter.
And eventually, the hunting ground officials’ secret treat became a delicacy enjoyed by gourmets everywhere.
We can only imagine…
Grilling thick slices of breast meat (called “daki”) with the skin
over bincho-tan charcoal
and enjoying it with soy sauce and grated daikon radish is Toriyasu’s signature dish.
– by Seinosuke IV