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OISHII / Sashimi dish offers a feast for your eyes and palate

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Sugomori ika, right, and karakusa ika

The Yomiuri ShimbunSlices of raw squid

In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.

Yariika, or spear squid, is a gift from the sea that tastes best from winter to early spring. Naoyuki Yanagihara, deputy head of a cooking school for traditional Japanese cuisine, recommends preparing the squid as sashimi to utilize its sophisticated rich flavor and favorable firmness.

Yanagihara shows how to prepare “sugomori ika” (bird’s nest made of squid) and “karakusa ika” (squid sashimi with scrollwork pattern).

“Squid is usually cooked by being fried or boiled, isn’t it? How about making squid sashimi at home? I strongly recommend it,” Yanagihara said.

If you ask a fishmonger to clean the squid, it is easier to prepare the dishes. “But you also can take on the challenge if you have the time to spare to do so,” he said.

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    Simmered squid with nanohana

First, pull the legs and guts out of the mantle — which you can think of as the squid’s “torso” — and remove the cuttlebone from it. Remove and discard the beak and eyes. Pull on the triangular fin and peel it off, together with the skin. That’s all — cleaning squid is not so difficult if you follow these steps.

This time, only the mantle will be used for the dishes. Make a lengthwise cut to open up the mantle, spread it flat, and then cut it into upper and lower halves. Use the triangular upper part for sugomori ika, and the square lower part for karakusa ika.

To prepare sugomori ika, cut the squid into strips and arrange them in a small mound with a nest-like indentation on top. One squid will provide enough strips to make two such mounds. Gently place the yolk of a quail egg in each nest.

It is important how you insert the knife onto the squid. After cutting the triangular part vertically into slices about three centimeters wide, cut the slices crosswise into thin strips. By cutting the squid this way, you will have sashimi slices with a rich flavor and chewy texture.

Be aware that, according to Yanagihara, “Your finger deftness and aesthetic sense will be tested in this dish.”

Moving on to karakusa ika, the scrollwork pattern of the dish is made with nori seaweed and sashimi squid rolled up together.

Each section shows a black curlicue pattern resembling the hiragana letter “no.”

The two sashimi dishes harmonize the rich and delicate flavor of squid, the creamy texture of egg and the oceanic smell of seaweed. It is also a delight to the eye.

Recipe for squid sashimi dishes

Ingredients (Serves 2):

1 squid mantle

10-centimeter square of nori seaweed

2 quail eggs

15 grams ginger

Seaweed

Daikon radish

Soy sauce

Directions:

1. Open up the squid mantle by inserting the knife into it from the side to which the cuttlebone was attached. Spread the mantle flat and cut it horizontally in two — a triangular part and a square part.

2. Prepare “sugomori ika.” After cutting the triangular part vertically into slices about 3 centimeters wide, cut the slices crosswise into thin strips. To create a “nest” in a round shape, pick up two to three slices of squid at a time and arrange them into the shape of a bird nest. Make two bird nests on two serving plates. Place a quail egg yolk in the center of each bird nest.

3. Prepare “karakusa ika.” Make lengthwise shallow cuts in the square squid piece, turn it over, and place a piece of nori seaweed on top of it. Roll it up with the cuts outside, and cut the resulting cylinder into 5-millimeter slices.

4. Arrange karakusa ika on the plates with the sugomori ika. Place shredded daikon topped with seaweed beside the sashimi. Add grated ginger. Serve with soy sauce on the side.

Simmered squid with nanohana

“Let’s use every part of the squid without being wasteful,” Yanagihara said, suggesting a dish that calls for the tentacles and fins of a squid left over from the main recipes in this story.

Put ½ cup dashi broth, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sake, ¾ tablespoon of sugar and ½ tablespoon of mirin in a pot and bring to a low boil. Cut the tentacles, fins and ¼of a standard bundle of nanohana field mustard into bite-size pieces, and add them to the pot. When the ingredients resume boiling and are heated through, pour two beaten eggs over them and cook until the eggs have softly set.

The dish — which makes you feel the season of spring — has a rich flavor due to the dashi broth, and goes well with rice.

To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&dSpeech

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