From top R: Chu-toro (pink), Paradise Prawn (blue), Kazunoko/Herring roe (yellow), Hotaru-ika/Firefly Squid (purplish brown), Tako/Squid (white with purple edge)
Every time I go back to Japan, I’m amazed by their obsessions with fresh and unique food. It’s getting worse every year it seems.
Now with the internet, you can order practically anything from anywhere in the world. For the Japanese, probably the most prominent is that you can order the freshest seafood that used to be only available when you traveled to a specific area. It can be on your dining table the next day, without leaving your desk or home (order by 1pm today, you get it tomorrow for dinner.)
Yes, we have been able to get sashimi of many different kind of seafood for decades (or longer) at our local supermarket, but the internet really changed the way the Japanese eat seafood, direct from the port.
On our dinner table on the first two days of our visit, we had the following:
– Hotaru ika (Firefly Squid) from Toyama (on the photo above)
– Paradise Prawn from New Caledonia (ditto)
– Shiro baigai (White Ivory Shell)
– Extra Large Zuwai Gani (Snow Crab) legs (5 inches long) from Canada
All came through internet, fresh frozen except for Baigai (fresh). My question is, why don’t we have the same service in the US? Canada is much closer to us than in Japan. And their ads stated these crabs are prepared and frozen at a USDA approved plant.
Snow Crab legs
My sister joyfully preparing these giant crab legs for the kani shabu/crab hot-pot. She loves seafood, plus this was an excellent opportunity for her to impress my husband, the special guest at their household.
(Besides the hot-pot, we had yakitori (bottom left), bonito sashimi (bottom middle), mounds of hotaru-ika (brownish mass on the bottom right), pickled nappa cabbage (center, cream-colored thing), and nameko mushrooms with baby anchovies (brown thing right next to it), etc.)
The Japanese doctors and nutritionists often say “eat 30 different food items per day”. This alone is close to that 30 in one meal!
It was not just the variety, but the amount was pretty generous as well. We don’t eat like this when we are in the US, so we got really full quickly. Both my mom and sister kept offering us to eat more: “We got all these for you, and we don’t want to spoil them.” I started to think, now I lost weight from eating smaller portions in the US, this is the first time I would gain weight by visiting Japan.
It seems to me that because of the economy, Japanese people are not eating this über fresh seafood at the five-star Japanese restaurants, but at home for a fraction of the price (or same price, 5 – 10 times of the amount.) Plus preparing sashimi takes practally no time. Once it’s thawed, all you do is place it on a plate.
We used to buy a few slices of assorted sashimi — about 1/4 – 1/3 lbs or so on a small tray for $20 or so. Now these internet fish markets sells these by the kilo, and often have special bulk offers, such as “buy 3kg (6.6 lbs), you get shipping free”. These internet offerings are definitely cheaper if you do the math (and they do that for you in their marketing copy). It’s basically bulk sales, like buying at Costco. It’s a smart business model though, because people buy a larger amount, share with others, then they too get hooked with the fresh seafood. The word of mouth spreads like a tsunami!
For example, my sister got 3kg of raw baby squid (hotaru ika) at once, because by buying two 1 kilo boxes, this company will give you another one free, plus free shipping. Just like me, she loves variety, so as you see, she orders four kinds of seafood, anywhere between 1 – 3 kgs, totalling about 10 kgs (22 lbs!) for 3 adults in 40s and one 78 years old woman! Way too much! The Japanese traditionally hates wasting food, especially super fresh straight from the port kind, so she shares these seafood with other relatives.
My guess is that one of our relatives first ordered a lot, and shared with everyone else. In any case, the circle of ordering and sharing keeps going.
Despite her effort, my husband wasn’t too excited about them. After all, he’s a white boy from the Midwest. He freaked out with these “big shiny eyes”. Me? I enjoyed them a lot. They were so rich and sweet, I loved them… until after about 20, and still a mound of them left. Too bad you weren’t there with us! (My sister probably still has majority of them left in the freezer. If you are willing to visit her in Tokyo and eat some baby squid, let me know!) Now I’ve been away from them for a while, these photos makes me long for this seafood… (drool….)
Maybe some of you don’t agree with this national obsession with fresh seafood, and the gluttony of Japanese ordinary (middle-class) gourmands.
And excessive fishing. I haven’t watched the Cove yet, but I can see that the same thing could happen with other kinds of seafood.
What do you think? Is it good that Japanese can order so many varieties of fresh seafood so easily?