Festive season shiokara

First of all, happy holidays and all the best for the New Year: I hope you all have big catches and safe journeys at sea for 2015!  I’ve been busy recently but not too busy, so I could make the seasonal Japanese food shiokara, which is a kind of Japanese charcuterie.  Squid is sun-dried and mixed with their salted, cured livers that are partly fermented.  It is one of those dishes that inspires horror and nightmares in many a young naive Westerner visiting Japan, but this is largely because real shiokara is a rarity and most of the stuff you get in bars supermarkets is a poor substitute made by stirring the worst quality squid with flavourings, food colouring, sugar and citrates to give it a “fermented taste”.  The real dish starts off with extracting the livers from surume (flying squid) squid and setting them to salt-cure.  Winter is the season for this as this is when the livers are at their biggest.

The flesh of the squids, along with their legs, are dried outside – in winter in Tokyo the air is so cold and dry, the squid does not need salting or curing beforehand: they are done in about 8 hours.  I put mine out with my laundy in the morning and they are ready in the afternoon just before sun-down.

I learned how to make shiokara when I was living with a Japanese family in 1996 and the actual fermentation process is a secret I promised not to reveal, but the end result should look like this:

All that remains is to extract the fermented liver-paste from the liver sac (which is not used and discarded) and mix this with the sun-dried squid, which is finely chopped into strands.  The whole is mixed together with a touch of sake (or mirin if you like a sweeter taste) and left to meld overnight – longer won’t do any harm.  When serving, the shiokara is best with a couple of shreds of yuzu citrus peel on top (I didn’t happen to have yuzu in my fridge when the shiokara was ready).


4 responses to “Festive season shiokara

  1. Wonderful write up as always, Adam. It’s too bad you have so many secrets locked away in that head of yours. I wish you could publish a book of all of these classic Japanese preparations and dishes for fellow Westerners to learn.

    • Hi Joel, thank you for reading and posting your kind comment. Your comment is in fact curiously prescient, as I am currently compiling Japanese recipes and fishing anecdotes for a small book to be published in the future! Wishing you all the best for the New Year from Tokyo, and thank you for continuing to ready my blog!

  2. Hi Joel, Book’s a bit of a long term project: I’ve only fished about a quarter of Japan so far (I plan on doing every prefecture and city)! Thanks for the kind offer of help though! Adam

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