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.
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.
More fish – ‘onna stick’ (to paraphrase Terry Pratchett) – for immediate consumption…cute baby octopusses:
The ultimate ‘onna stick’ charcoal grilled fish, at a stall in Gion park
Many stalls offered tiny, almost transparent baby fish by the scoop:
Believe these are stuffed abalone. I didn’t get the chance to try one, so it’s just a guess.
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!
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:
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.
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:
Some of the shellfish we saw were remarkable too – these giant ones were at least 35cm long and only fit 4 to a box:
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:
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:
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.