6 Reasons to Try Shiokara with Sake!

7 Interesting Thoughts of Japanese Family

Shiokara is one of a variety of dishes known as “chinmi” which, loosely translated, means ‘rare tastes’ but could be taken to mean ‘things that only the Japanese are mental enough to eat’. It consists of strips of flesh of sea creatures, often squid, preserved with about 10% salt in their own viscera (yes, their innards!). Other ingredients may also be added, such as shichimi (seven spice mix), mountain wasabi, mirin or grated yuzu peel. The mixture is then allowed to ferment for anything from one to six months. The flavor is fishy, salty and a little spicy, with what is often described as a viscous texture and a strong odor, a perception that may be initially off-putting to a foreigner’s palate. However, it is usually served in quite small quantities as an accompaniment to meals with sake. Of course, it is an acquired taste, even for many Japanese, but some people make their own and eat it on rice, so it’s not just a drinking snack. So, let’s see if I can persuade you to try it too!



 

6 Reasons to Try Shiokara with Sake!

 

1. It’s a Cultural Thing!

Many popular dishes in Japan are comparatively modern, but shiokara is far older. While 11th century Vikings were eating fermented shark, the Japanese were tucking in to shiokara and, given the long history of squid fishing here, it is probable that ika no shiokara was one of the earliest types. It is still the most commonly eaten shiokara and can be considered an iconic part of Japanese food culture. If you came to Japan to sample our culture, put ika no shiokara with a sake chaser on your list of things to experience!

 

2. When in Rome…

There are many restaurants and drinking establishments that specialize in shiokara, but you don’t have to go looking for it… most often, shiokara finds you! In older style izakaya and sushi shops, a small complimentary dish of shiokara will often magically appear at your table when you order sake or shochu, or a set menu. And if you are someone’s dinner guest, they may order shiokara for you to try. In either case, we Japanese would feel a strong sense of obligation to accept what we were served, and so should you… just make sure your sake cup is full and close to hand!

 

3. It’s Good for You… probably

Seafood is high in protein, vitamins and minerals, but low in calories and fat. Its many health benefits include reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and hypertension. Remember this when you are confronted by a dish of specialty shiokara such as ganzuke (crab), mefun (salmon) or uruka (ayu or ‘sweetfish’) as it will offset any concerns you had about the salt content, or all that sake you’re guzzling!

 

4. It’s Nice and Salty… yum!

Being so salty, shiokara goes well with alcoholic beverages, or is it the other way around? Certainly, the more you consume, the thirstier you’ll get, and the more drinks you’ll order (sake, for example), and that will make you popular with bar owners.

 

5. It’s Not as Awful as it Sounds!

Actually, it might be… if you can’t find a shiokara you like, but I think most people find a favorite in time. I can usually gulp down a dish of squid shiokara in company, but if I had to choose, I’d prefer shuto, which is a specialty shiokara made with tuna… a great combination with sake.

 

6. You Can’t Resist a Challenge!

You might think uni (raw sea urchin) and natto represent the biggest Japan food challenges to overcome. But how about trying uni no shiokara (made with sea urchin roe), or kaki no shiokara (oyster), or the specialty konowata (sea cucumber)? There’s a special kind of kudos for braving these delicacies, and if you need a little Dutch courage, order an extra flask of sake!

 

Conclusion

Why is sake such an important part of the shiokara experience? Perhaps because in the centuries before we had beer in Japan, sake was all there and, was evolving tradition has done the rest. Of course, you can have shiokara with tea or just water, as many people do, but the thing about alcohol is it reduces inhibitions. Still, you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy shiokara as an occasional delicacy. Try the shiokara and sake experience for yourself; you might be pleasantly surprised!

 

6 Reasons to Try Shiokara with Sake!

1. It’s a Cultural Thing!
2. When in Rome…
3. It’s Good for You… probably
4. It’s Nice and Salty… yum!
5. It’s Not as Awful as it Sounds!
6. You Can’t Resist a Challenge!