Squid Marks

Posted by on Dec 12, 2011 in Tottori, Travel Volunteer Journey | 3 Comments
Squid Marks

Squid. It’s all over Japan – it’s all over Asia for that matter. On our very first day in Kanazawa we went to a market and saw a neat little row of the bug-eyed, jelly-bodied little guys, frozen in shock. Since then, I don’t think we’ve been to a prefecture where it’s been unavailable. In Hokkaido, entire squid came stuffed with rice, other times it’s been fried in an almost sweet sauce, but mostly it’s come as sashimi.

Truth be told, it’s not our favourite, largely because it can be so inconsistent. The freshest stuff is brilliant white and tastes almost buttery; the less good stuff is irritatingly similar in colour, but typically leaves you chewing away like cow eating toffee.

Still, there’s no denying its popularity, or the fact that it’s virtually fat free but high in protein. While you can find it all around Japan’s long coastline, here on the Japan Sea side of Honshu, in Tottori and Shimane prefectures, it is especially plentiful and popular. And, thanks to that, it’s also incredibly fresh – so fresh in fact, that live squid are bagged-up, boxed and shipped around Japan to discerning restaurateurs.

Despite catching over 500,000 tonnes of squid a year in Japan alone, the fishing method is remarkably low-tech: just a mildly phosphorous jig attached to a line and dangled over the side of a boat. With those big eyes, squid detect light levels that our rubbish human peepers cannot, so they go mad for anything that’s glow-in-the-dark.

When they’re hauled in, they don’t give as much of a fight as fish, so it’s simply a case of winding in a line by hand. The biggest threat they pose is firing a little ink in your direction. Only amateur fishermen need to worry about this kind of thing (and, having failed to catch anything at all, we didn’t even have to worry about that).

Night is the best time to go squid fishing, when the lack of sunlight sends the nervous beasts closer to the surface in search of something else. A squid boat, then, has a powerfully bright light on top to attract them, something that is rendered useless when a full moon is out and confusing them altogether.

It’s unclear why this stretch of sea between Japan and Korea is so rich with squid: perhaps they’re brought here on a strong current, perhaps they’re chasing food of their own. What is clear is that the process of preparing them once they’re out of the water is neither easy, nor pleasant.

I suppose its not particularly nice to eviscerate any creature. I wouldn’t honestly know – the days when I’d relish picking apart a bug or a fish have long gone.

There are many difficulties that arise when attempting to gut a so-fresh-it’s-still-moving squid, but the most challenging is just how hard it is to hold onto any part of the animal. Honestly, a wet bar of soap is a less slippery foe. It’s also often unclear about just where the knife should go, and with what pressure: the body of a squid when relaxed, or when so close to death that it doesn’t matter any more, is translucent* making it very difficult to work out what bit is attached to where. The only obvious parts of its anatomy are the enormous eyes (which burst and pop like watery blisters) and the iridescent ink sack which almost always ruptures all over the place. All of this while trying to hold onto its slimy, cold body… Trust us on this one: you’re better leaving the squid preparation to the professionals.

 

イカは日本中で目にする。いや、アジア中と言っても過言ではないかもしれない。このプロジェクトの最終選考会の時に訪れた金沢の市場でギョロ目のイカを目にして以来、イカがないという都道府県は無かったのではないだろうか。北海道ではイカにご飯を詰めたものを見たし、他の場所ではイカフライもあった。そして最もポピュラーなお刺身には至るところでお目にかかっている。

正直なところ、イカは私達の“お気に入り”ではない。なぜなら鮮度によって全く味が違うからだ。新鮮なものはきれいな白色で豊かな風味があるが、古いものは見た目は新鮮なものとさほど変わらないのに、味のないキャラメルでも食べているかのよう・・・。とはいえ、脂肪分が少なく、たんぱく質が豊富なイカは、“優秀”な食材だ!

日本中でお目にかかれるイカだが、本州の日本海側、ここ島根県と鳥取県付近では大量に獲れる。だからこそ、その鮮度はお墨付きで、それを証拠にここから日本中に出荷されるのだ。日本で年間500,000トンもの収穫量があるイカ、その漁法には熟練の技が必要とされる。イカは、その大きな眼で、私達人間の目ではキャッチできない光を捉えることができる。そのためイカ釣り舟にはたくさんの電球がつけられており、暗闇の中の光でイカをおびき寄せるのだ。

イカは捕獲される時他の魚のように暴れたりしないかわりに墨を吐く!とは言え、そんな事を心配しなければならないのは、私達のようなアマチュア漁師ぐらいだ。(というかそれ以前に、何も獲れなかったのだから、そんな事を心配する状況にもならなかったのだが・・・)イカ漁をするには、魚たちが船の明かりにつられて水面に近付いてくる夜が最適だ。そのためにイカ釣り漁船にはイカをおびき寄せるため、煌々と光るライトがつけられている。

朝鮮半島と日本に間の海でなぜこんなにも大量のイカが獲れるのかはいまだに謎だ。この辺りにある餌に釣られてやってくるのだろうか・・・。ただ一つ言える事はイカを釣ったあとのプロセスは簡単でも、楽しいものでもない。特に内臓を取り出す作業は、お世辞にも気分の良いものとは言えない。とは言え・・・子供の頃、昆虫や魚をバラバラにして楽しんでいたので偉そうなことはいえないのだが・・・。

新鮮なイカをさばくのは、ツルツルすることもあってなかなか難しい。だが最大のチャレンジは生きているイカを押さえつける事だった。事実ヌルヌルとする石鹸を手にする事よりずっと大変なのだ。そしてどこに包丁を入れればよいのかというのも迷うところなのだ。特にイカの体は半透明で中が見えてしまうので、ついつい躊躇してしまう。分かりやすいのはギョロっとした目と墨袋だが、いつもその袋を破ってしまい、墨をそこら中に散らしてしまうのだ・・・。

本日の教訓:イカをさばくのはプロの方にお願するべし!

3 Comments

  1. Kim
    December 12, 2011

    Lmao, Katy’s face is priceless on the last photo, clearly sums up squid preparing in one glance!

    Nice to know never to go swimming in the dark on the full moon! Odds are you’ll end up covered in stings!

  2. Joe Lafferty
    December 12, 2011

    Those lilac pants are very fetching Jamie!

  3. Eric
    December 12, 2011

    They didn’t catch any, despite phosphorescent bait and a powerful spotlight in the night… I wonder who of Katy or Jamie scarred all the squids away ?? ;-)

    Or is it the lilac pants? ;-) )