For a nation whose cuisine highlights preserved and fermented foods, Japan reveres freshness. Seafood, like any other food, begins to deteriorate upon harvesting (or killing), so nearly all of the freshly caught fish is frozen immediately once it lands upon the fishing vessel.
But frozen isn’t the same as fresh, so a lot of different types of seafood is kept alive in saltwater while it is shipped to local restaurants that then prepare it once the diner orders it from the menu. In some cases, the seafood is served alive. Yes, alive. Diners can scoop up tiny fish with a small strainer to dip into hot broth or an egg-and-vinegar condiment and eat them while they wiggle--the fish, not the diners! Or sometimes, a larger fish is presented on a platter with only its end half filleted. Its mouth gapes and tail flails.
Another popular dish is tako sashimi or raw octopus that is sliced while still alive. In fact, its tentacles continue to writhe around chopsticks, and diners must be aware of potentially dangerous suction cups that can choke diners. (Is that some sort of *bachi* or karmic pay-back?) If you wonder whether cephalopods can sense being eaten, please read my article about how to cook tako. Octopi are the most intelligent of invertebrates, capable of observational learning and having highly developed central nervous systems. In some countries, there is a ban on operating on them without anesthesia.
Cultural differences can make for curious dining. I am not telling anyone how or what to eat, but I do encourage you to eat humanely! For those of you who still have an appetite after reading this, continue on for this week’s recipe at the BellaOnline Japanese Food site:
How to Cook Tako or Octopus Plus Miso Dipping Sauce Recipe
This rubbery cephalopod can be tender and flavorful when prepared properly. It is easier to cook than one might think.
And please test your sushi knowledge with a new quiz I posted here:
Are You a Sushi Master? Quiz
How well do you know your beloved sushi? Whether you prepare it or simply savory it at your favorite sushi bar, have fun with this quiz to test your sushi savvy.
This week’s Japanese food phrase: Yukkuri ajiwatte tabete ne (yoo-koo-ree ah-gee-waht-teh tah-beh-teh neh) which means Eat slowly and appreciate the taste. I got this great phrase from the Japanese Language Guide, Namiko Abe, at About.com. You can sign up for a new Japanese word or phrase of the day and get a new word in your inbox daily. I only tend to post food-related phrases here but she covers so much more. And if you're wanting to learn Japanese, you can pick it up quickly at her site that has some audio files to hear accents.
And a parting thought…
Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways. H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Until next time,
BellaOnline.com Japanese Food Editor