Eat Outside Your Comfort Zone: 7 Succulent Sea Beasts of Japan that Must Be Tasted!

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  • People who love Japan, but hate fish and seafood baffle me. I know, it isn’t for everyone, but I can not tell you how many times I have met people who start out with going on and on about the interesting culture and the delicious food, minus anything sticky, slimy, or containing anything that comes from the sea.

    Hmm. That eliminates a big ol’ chunk of delicious delicacies, in my opinion, but I guess to each his own. If you are in Japan during your travels, a newbie starting a new life abroad, or a veteran English teacher, you should definitely try to be adventurous and try the foods shown below. Maybe some are familiar, maybe some are new. Either way, they all taste heavenly and make great Instagram photos…unless you hate seafood…

    1. Japanese Spiny Lobster (Ise Ebi)

    seafood lobster

    Be prepared to shell out the clams to enjoy this. Get it? Shell out. The clams. I digress, if you are buying from a fishmonger, look to spend about three to five thousand yen or more. In a restaurant, from five thousand to ten thousand yen depending on the dish and course. This delicacy is served in all manner of ways, sliced raw (sashimi), boiled, or steamed. I recommend the sashimi if you have the cash. Lush, buttery, and all around exquisite. If you have the chance to enjoy this on your travels, do not skip over it!

    seafood lobster 2

    I strongly recommend the sashimi compared to any other way to enjoy the spiny lobster. The other options may be cheaper and more familiar to Westerners but you will enjoy the sashimi the most. Exquisite taste at its finest!

    2. Abalone (Awabi)

    seafood abalone

    This delicious gift from the depths is served in different ways and sauces depending on the area you are in, the local tastes and customs. In Kumamoto, you can enjoy amazing awabi in Amakusa, both in sashimi form, or my favourite, grilled on a hot pan in butter while still moving. Sadistic? Maybe. Delicious? You bet.

    Prices range from 1000 yen – 2000 yen each. If you can get them fresh at a little shop by the sea, they are worth whatever you have to pay. Delicious and buttery, the best part is that you can usually keep the shell. A little grubby on the outside, but shiny and pearl-like on the inside. Think of the Instagram pictures you could take!

    seafood abalone shell

    Awabi is my personal favourite of all of the sea beasts. I eat them every chance I get. If I happen to drive by a shop selling them, I will pull over, whip out the Visa, and gorge myself on the treats even if I have already eaten a full course. Try them. Take home the shells. Make pretty things.

    3. Turban Shell (Sazae)

    seafood sazae

    This one looks a little grotesque but makes up for its appearance in taste. The most common method of cooking this is grilling it on the barbecue, but be warned! These beasts can get hot and bubbly and pop like fourth of July fireworks when you aren’t paying attention! Take off the hard bit on the top, and enjoy the flesh within. Sometimes, the illustrious turban shell can be a bit bitter or pungent, but it is delicious just the same. Usually, you can find them as part of a BBQ seafood meal, or individually in shops for about 500 yen each. Turban shell is subject to seasonal price fluctuations.

    You can also get turban shell at the supermarket, and cook it yourself. You will spend less, about 300-500 yen each. Sometimes fishmongers have crazy cheap deals (see below)! Easy to cook, chuck on the grill, wait for them to pop, and enjoy!

    seafood sazae bargain

    4. Pufferfish (Fugu)

    seafood fugu

    Almost everyone has heard of or (had nightmares about) the deadly but delicious pufferfish. The two standard ways to eat it are in nabe (hot pot), waste of good puffer if you ask me, or sashimi, which is amazing. The fish is sliced thinly, so the translucent sashimi can be spread decoratively on the plate, to be dipped in ponzu and enjoyed.

    Or, you could just get all crazy and creative to make food art out of poisonous sea creatures… Too delicate for my taste!

    The danger:

    I am personally never put off by the threat of a poisonous puffer related demise, however, you should use common sense. This fish has poison. REAL poison. As in, dip arrows in the poison to ensure death from minor wounds kind of poison. Therefore, do NOT EVER try to prepare this dish on your own. Similarly, don’t go to a hole-in-the-wall dirt cheap shop to eat it either. Most people who die from this dish, do so because the person preparing it was not properly licensed, or they stupidly decided to give it a try themselves. Darwin’s law.

    Prices range greatly, think about at least 1000 yen per person if not more. Most nicer places charge around 3000 yen for a plate of freshly sliced puffer. If you want the nabe (hot pot) option, it is usually cheaper, starting at about 2000 yen.

    seafood fugu nabe

    5. Octopus (Tako)

    seafood octopsus

    They may look gross, what with them suckers trying to cling on to your tongue, but octopi are yummy as can be. They are served in so many ways, simmered in soy sauce, freshly sliced, freshly sliced and still squirming, boiled in chunks, chopped up and covered in batter to make takoyaki. So. Many. Choices! My favourite is the raw, sliced kind. Slightly chewy, delicious in soy sauce and wasabi. Heaven from the sea. With suckers.

    seafood octopus sliced

    You can also buy tako at most supermarkets, a cheap and quick option. Izakaya prices start at around 500 yen, with supermarket prices starting a little cheaper, for 300 yen and up. Buy some sliced tako, dip it in soy sauce and wasabi, and enjoy the yumminess!

    6. Sea Cucumbers (Namako)

    Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

    Let’s face it, there is no getting around it. These things simply look gross. Thankfully, though, sea cucumbers taste lovely despite their off-putting appearance.

    seafood sea cucumber dish

    You can find them squirming and writhing in small aquariums in izakayas all around Japan. I strongly recommend you do not look at them swimming before you eat them. Could put you off your dinner. Just close your eyes, order, and enjoy the delicacy that is. They are commonly served in ponzu and run about 500 yen at most shops.

    The taste could be called an acquired taste, but once you get past the first bite, you will not regret it. Of all the nasty things I have put in my mouth, sea cucumbers are one of the best!

    7. Sea Urchin (Uni)

    seafood sea urchin

    I would like to meet the first person who looked in the ocean, saw the spiny beast in the sea, broke it open and thought ‘this might make a fine delicacy’. This person was the brave pioneer in the adventurous culinary world. The Julia Child of days gone by, if you will.

    Sea urchins don’t exactly look appealing. Black. Dangerous. Spines that could pierce an artery. But don’t let the looks fool you, the delight within is worth the potential harm and violence. One of the best ways to enjoy uni is in the form of sushi.

    seafood sea urchin sushi

    Uni can be found at most sushi shops, from 100 yen to nicer places. However, I simply don’t recommend the 100 yen option. Sometimes it is great, but sometimes cheaper uni has a strange, alcohol flavour (think rubbing alcohol, not the good drinkable kind). Think about spending 250 yen and up to ensure you are getting better flavour and taste.

    Another great option to enjoy uni is in jarred or glass bottled form. Famous uni producers include my beloved Kumamoto Prefecture’s Amakusa region, Nagasaki, as well as Hokkaido. Anywhere by the sea, really. You can spoon it on hot rice, and eat it that way, put it on crackers, or make a delicious pasta sauce.

    seafood sea urchin bottle

    Look to spend at least 1500 yen or more on the bottled version, preferably 3000 Yen, to get the yummiest version. Check out the pasta below, lush isn’t it? You know you want to eat it. Check out the recipe and impress your friends with your culinary abilities.

    seafood sea urchin pasta

    Overall, you owe it to yourself to branch out from your comfort zone and try some new sea beasts during your travels. Anything that looks slightly frightening or grotesque is worth a shot. Take hold of every chance you get to put something delicious from the sea in your mouth during your travels! You may find a new favourite, and have a few cool pictures to post on your blog.

    Happy eating!

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