Firefly Squid Shabushabu: Less Bioluminescent, Still Delicious!

Tokyo Food Firefly squid 2019.06.25
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These squid might have lost their ghostly glow, but not their brilliant flavor!

This Shabushabu Uses Squid Instead of Meat!

The Japanese hotpot dish shabushabu is popular all over the place these days. You can definitely get it outside of Japan, and high-quality meat lovers will find some spectacular shabushabu restaurants in the dish’s home country. It's delicious, and it's even a pretty healthy indulgence, with lots of protein and vegetables being cooked in a light broth. One of the key ingredients in most renditions of this hotpot, though, is thinly sliced red meat! You delicately drag these slices through the broth, carefully cooking them to just the right consistency, leaving you with a wonderfully tender mouthful.
 
Toyama, on the other hand, has its own intriguing reputation. Float out onto the waters of Toyama Bay on a spring night, and you’ll be surrounded by a mysteriously beautiful sight: thousands of tiny squid, brilliantly bioluminescing blue in the nighttime sea.
 
And it turns out, not only are the squid beautiful to look at in the water, they’re also delicious to eat! We headed to nearby Kurobe to give them a try.
The firefly squid (ホタルイカ) you find in Toyama glow like their namesakes, but that brilliant blue light does stop once they’re caught and taken out of the water. Instead they look like delicate, transparent little cephalopods, and their small size makes them perfect to pop right into your mouth!
 
Especially when they’re in season, Toyama is the place to get firefly squid sushi, sashimi, and most importantly shabushabu hotpot. If you're a seafood-eating pescatarian, try firefly squid instead of beef shabushabu. Just like you would with a slice of beef, you put your firefly squid into the broth for just a few moments to cook, before a quick splash into a light dipping sauce. Then it’s ready to eat!
 
Eating the little squid whole (eyes, legs, innards, and all) might put some of us off a little (sure, sometimes eating a face can be unappealing), but the subtle sweetness of the squid is worth a try. Don’t miss the chance if you get one.
The firefly squid spend most of the year in the deep waters off the bay, but in April and May they venture closer to the shore to mate.
 
Unfortunately for the little squid, for humans that means it’s squid season! And time to try a uniquely Japanese dish.

If squid isn’t your thing, though, or you just want to try some other rare Japanese dishes, see our article on foods you’ll only find right here in Japan. Or take a look at the truly unusual “ippon udon” available in Saitama, which is a bowl of udon made with one single (very) chunky noodle!

 

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