Yes, folks, it's high time for another edition of Ehhh? Moments! As you are all probably aware Japan is known for its delicious and sometimes unusual sea food. Sushi? Delicious! Sashimi? Fantastic! But Japan's love of seafood does not stop there. I've encountered a variety of unusual sea life cuisine- from brightly colored Gunkan Maki (Battleship Roll!) prepared in sushi restaraunts, to the snaily Turban Shell so popular in the Oki Islands, to the Saba served whole (bones, eyes, guts, and all) in school lunches- I've seen so many great and slightly gross things. Here are a couple of the more unusual fishy things I've run across.
Giant tuna head, anyone? This big boy was sitting in the middle of a fish aisle in a nearby supermarket. If you were to take a peek inside you would still find his skull, organs, and part of his spine still intact. (When you are paying almost nine dollars for a fish head you want it all, right?) And just for reference this thing is about the size of MY head, which is not small as human heads go. I'm not sure what he would be used for- maybe soup broth? but he was certainly a shock to see. Giant bluefin tuna are the king of fishes in Japan. In America I saw a Discovery Channel program on bluefin tuna fishermen. The poor fishermen spend weeks and weeks on the sea in the hopes of catching just one tuna. But a single bluefin can go for $2000 to $20000 in a fish market depending on the size and fat content involved. Intense, huh? Think on that next time you are chewing some delicious maguro rolls.
Yes, you're seeing right- this is an entire package of tiny dried crabs. Called Tamago-kani 玉子かに or "egg crabs" these little guys are eaten whole like potato chips, supposedly a good pairing for a cold glass of Asahi. Apparently the shells are kind of chewy. Ewwww. Ingredients? Corn starch, sugar, MSG, sweet sake, salt, and tiny but whole crabs. I still haven't decided yet if I've become adventurous enough in my seafood eating that I would try one of these guys. Maybe just one. With my eyes closed. And a trash can nearby.
These tiny tiny fish are called jako- chirimenjako to be exact. Jako are surprisingly common in Japanese cuisine. They mix them in with rice to make jako-onigiri, they sprinkle them on stir fry, they serve them with school lunches. I actually ate some jako-onigiri prepared by a cooking class at the local community center. You can buy them in pretty much any supermarket- right next to the fish cakes and the fish eggs. They re not on the top of my list of things I'd like to eat- not even in the top thousand- but they weren't terrible. The texture was kind of unnerving and I never like my food to look at me. But supposedly they are full of calcium and very good for you. I, however, prefer to take my calcium in Frozen Yogurt form.
Did this whet your appetite? Eat up, America!