The Fish – Nishiki style

???????????????????????????????It’s not hard to see that Japan is a country that relies heavily on seafood. On our trips to Japan this has been readily apparent – not just in the sashimi either (though in the end we ate less of that than we do on a typical week in Australia).

Nowhere was this so obvious as at Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Whilst not specifically a fish market, quite a few stalls were dedicated to seafood in one form or another. Seafood is very, very popular! I’m not usually a fan of blog posts consisting entirely of photos in a long line, but everything was so visually arresting that it’s hard to resist.

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There were wet fish stalls in abundance, some specialist (only shellfish, only particular kinds of fish, one devoted to fish pre-prepared for barbecuing).IMG_7880

BBQ ready

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Squid ‘lollipops’ – these were very popular. Where in the West you might see the younger generation wandering the streets tucking into junk food and fast food chain  unpleasantness, in Japan we were much more likely to see people with more natural looking food stuffs, from dried fish snacks, steamed buns and things on a stick. Things on a stick were a bit of a theme, actually.

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More fish – ‘onna stick’ (to paraphrase Terry Pratchett) – for immediate consumption…cute baby octopusses:

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The ultimate ‘onna stick’ charcoal grilled fish, at a stall in Gion park

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Many stalls offered tiny, almost transparent baby fish by the scoop:

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Believe these are stuffed abalone. I didn’t get the chance to try one, so it’s just a guess.

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More teeny fishies, whether as ingredients or snacks, I’m not sure. Cute though!

???????????????????????????????I was thinking this might be fish roe of some description, but given the high cost, now I’m wondering if it’s funazushi – fermented fish.  If you speak Japanese and can read those signs, tell me please – leave a comment!

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The fun of visiting foreign food markets is trying to work out what you’re seeing. I know this is a fish, obviously, but is it smoked? Dried? Just cooked?

These however I did recognise – whilst again cursing living on an island with (justifiably) strict quarantine regulations, preventing me from buying wholesale:

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Bonito. The gently wafting flakes of which appear on top of soups, and are a integral part of dashi stock. They’re as hard as rock and are redolent of wooden carvings, rather than fish. They’re grated into wafer thin strips using a special grater.

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Wooden bonito shaver (middle) and bags of pre-shaved bonito in different grades

Loving a gadget as I do, I’ve been after a bonito shaver since our last visit – not from any expectation of use of course, seeing as I can’t buy proper whole bonito in Australia, but just as a thing. Didn’t want to spend $100 equivalent on this one, though so I’ll just have to settle for my wasabi grater (see The Knives).

Evidence of another Japanese obsession, individually wrapped fish:

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Some of the shellfish we saw were remarkable too – these giant ones were at least 35cm long and only fit 4 to a box:

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This is before we even started on sushi and sashimi! From a tiny hole in the wall just off Nishiki market was this delightful little sake and sushi joint, so tiny it only holds 6 people, elbow to elbow. We waited patiently for a group to leave and spent a happy hour eating and sampling sakes:???????????????????????????????

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Scallop sushi, and a firm, light flavoured white fish we pointed at in the chiller cabinet (above, preceding photo). The joys of not speaking the local language!

Overall, there was nothing that we Westerners found too challenging to try, though I’d have to work hard to get Mr C to eat another of these, that we’d unwittingly chosen from a bar’n’grill in Osaka – the horned turban sea snail, or sazae:IMG_7957 IMG_7958

This one has excited much comment for looking fairly foreign to Western eyes. Whilst Mr C was so revolted by his mouthful that he spat it straight out again, I guess he just got the bum parts cos my two mouthfuls weren’t that bad. It was a bit too chewy for comfort, with a strong mussel-ish taste, and slightly gritty. You’d have to really like strong tasting big ol fella mussels to like this. Like, a lot. But it wasn’t anything like as bad as it looks, which is a lesson for us all really. I mean, have you really looked at a freshly opened crab recently? Or an oyster? They look nasty, dude.

Foreign is only a product of lack of familiarity.

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2 thoughts on “The Fish – Nishiki style

  1. Wow, that sea snail is quite something! Not going to lie, but it did give me goosebumps when I saw your photos of it and I feel a bit uneasy now hahaha! It’s always good to give new things a try, even if they do look a bit strange. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Thanks Olivia. I honestly believe that it’s only familiarity that makes us overlook foodstuffs that actually look quite gross when you examine them. The first time I opened a spanner crab I actually felt a little lightheaded! It looked pretty alien, with all those gills, unfamiliarly arranged guts and so forth. But no-one I know finds crab way-out and disgusting; completely the opposite. Anyway thanks for persevering to the end of the post anyway!!
      Incidentally, I see you’re in Japan; can you read Japanese? Are you able to tell me what some of the less obvious fishies in the market were?

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