Shirako (or fish sperm sacs) in sauce — Picture courtesy of iStock / Love
Inside my first month of residing in Japan got here my first date in Japan. And with my first date in Japan got here my first expertise consuming piscine semen.
Till that time in my life, I hadn’t thought of the existence of – not to mention the prospect of consuming – fish semen.
However there I used to be in labyrinthine alleyways of Osaka’s Shinsekai space at a tiny seafood izakaya crammed with full of life locals, feeling fairly pleased with myself for downing slabs of uncooked squid, ankimo (steamed monkfish fish liver, often known as the “foie gras of the ocean”), and kanimiso (a gray/inexperienced paste of crab brains), when out got here a bowl containing what regarded like a uncooked human mind.
It was topped with some sliced spring onion, a shiso leaf and a soy sauce-based dressing. I requested my date, considerably reluctantly, what it was. Fish sperm, he advised me, by means of a mix of damaged English and pantomime circumlocution.
The fish sperm (or milt) is extracted in its entirety from the fish, and appears like the results of a human lobotomy. Relying on the extent of seminal fluid contained within the sac, the colour ranges from translucent and whitish with a pink hue to opaque and white as snow, therefore shirako being represented by kanji characters which means “white kids.”
In what seems like a twisted chauvinistic joke – however is, in reality, fully actual – it’s believed to be good for the pores and skin and have anti-aging properties, with excessive ranges of protein, and nutritional vitamins B12 and D.
I went, tentatively, to choose up the shirako with my chopsticks, solely to search out it had the sticky viscosity of uncooked egg. However I wished to maintain face with my date and the onlookers, and cling to my try-everything-once meals coverage, so I put it in my mouth. It was tepid, disconcertingly creamy and barely fishy. Followers describe this as a “melting style,” “the sweetness with sea air” and “sensual umami.”
This delicacy is just not distinctive to Japan; Russians eat pickled herring semen (moloka) and Sicilians eat tuna milt (lattume) as a preferred pasta topping, for instance.
However the Japanese take issues to a different degree. Contemplating different marine reproductive organs – caviar (fish eggs) and uni (sea urchin gonads) – are extensively fashionable international delicacies, why not strive fish sperm?
Right here’s tips on how to pattern it if you happen to go to Japan in winter:
Shirako tempura — Picture courtesy of iStock / gtlv
That is beneficial, particularly for shirako noobs, as a result of something deep fried in batter is certain to be infinitely extra approachable. As with different forms of tempura, shirako is dredged in a lightweight batter and deep-fried. It’s crisp on the skin, creamy on the within.
Uncooked shirako — Picture courtesy of iStock / karinsasaki
On the different finish of the spectrum, shirako ponzu is for individuals who desire a extra straight-up sperm-eating expertise, as was my introduction to the delicacy. It usually comes served with grated daikon, ponzu (a citrus and soy sauce dressing) and spring onion. Maintain a sake (or a heated kanzake given the time of 12 months) shut by to clean it down as vital.
Sushi topped with shirako — Picture courtesy of iStock / Chettarin
Gunkanmaki (battleship sushi) is the variability made up of a pressed rice ball wrapped with nori to make somewhat “ship,” after which topped with varied elements. It’s the proper car for the sticky mess that’s shirako.
Tara chirinabe with shirako — Picture courtesy of iStock / Promo_Link
Winter is hotpot season in Japan, and so they are available in many alternative varieties – miso and oyster, kimchi and pork, and shirako.
Grilled shirako — Picture courtesy of iStock / bonchan
Shirako may also be ready grill-top, by cooking it over binchotan charcoal, giving the sac a tightness and the inside a velvety, pudding-like texture.
Chawanmushi (egg custard)
Mushi is “steamed,” chawan is “a tea cup.” Chawanmushi is egg custard steamed in a tea cup, and when shirako is in season, it’s possible you’ll discover it on prime or buried inside your custard.
These are the most well-liked and generally discovered methods to eat shirako, however if you happen to go to extra upmarket eating places, it’s possible you’ll discover it ready extra creatively – tartlets, puree, and mousse, for instance.