Yesterday, my (Okinawan) friend brought something called “sake toba” 鮭冬葉 (or 鮭とば) that she found at the market (I believe Makishi in Naha) to our BBQ party. Sake 鮭 means salmon, and toba 冬葉 means swarm or flock in Ainu, an ethnic group indigenous to Hokkaido area. Toba is made up of the kanji for “winter” and “leaves,” which is supposedly related to a poetry from the region but I heard since it is not a word used any more, the exact meaning does not seem so clear.
Saketoba is basically just salmon jerky, a specialty product of Hokkaido. It is autumn salmon cut thinly with the skin left one. It is washed with seawater and dried in the breeze by the seaside, so it retains a salty flavor.
So what did we do with this? We grilled it (gently), and pulled into small pieces with a side of mayonnaise to dip them in. It was pretty good! This is definitely a good snack to go with alcohol. You don’t have to heat it or grill it, but it gets softer and more flavorful if you do, so it is recommended.