Bizarre Foods – Seafoods, That Is

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We could eat clams, oysters, trout, salmon, mussels and so on every day and never get tired of them (who couldn’t?). Despite this, every now and then we like to mix things up and take a little walk on the wild side of the seafood world by diving head-first into new and unfamiliar culinary territory. We’d like to share that passion with you. We’ll do just that by way of introducing you to some of the lesser-known, but still greatly delicious seafood dishes you may have never before heard of. We’ll get the party started with lobster innards.

Lobster Innards

Have you ever taken a look inside of the body of a lobster after you’ve removed the delicious tail? If so, you’ve probably seen a lot of green stuff and may not have been quite sure what it was. This green paste-like substance is called tomalley, and it acts as both the liver and pancreas in every lobster. The tomalley is edible and is an ingredient in many different sauces and lobster-based soup stocks. However, the FDA does warn against consuming it, since as the lobster’s liver, it’s responsible for filtering elements the lobster absorbs which could potentially be harmful1. With that being said, it is generally safe to consume the tomalley, but whether or not you want to take the risk is a decision only you can make.

Another thing that happens when you look into the body cavity of the lobster is having your question answered as to whether it’s a male or female lobster that you’re dining on. If you see a red tube-like structure, that means you have a female lobster and what you’re seeing is the roe. The roe is edible and quite delicious, and does not pose the same threats as the tomalley. You can either eat it plain or dip it in melted butter or virtually any kind of sauce – you really can’t go wrong with this one.

Rounding out the unusual treats lying inside of a lobster are the strips of white meat found along the inner walls of the lobster and the meat within the lobster’s legs. The meat you’ll find here is quite similar to that of the claw meat in taste and texture, though it is highly difficult to extract due to the small size of the legs.

Sea Urchins

While this particular echinoderm may not look like something you’d want to eat, it’s a classic case of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Though they display spherical body adorned with several sharp spines, the sea urchin components that are edible will look nothing like that.

When you see sea urchin sushi or any other dish bearing the sea urchin name, you’ll actually be feeding on the gonads of this animal rather than its flesh. Regardless of whether the sea urchin you’re being served is male or female, the gonads will often euphemistically be referred to as “roe” or “coral”.

Once you get past your initial discomfort (if any) with consuming these parts, you’ll soon begin to wonder how you ever got along without them. The flavor is on the salty side with a very satisfying oceanic overtone. In addition to sushi, sea urchin is also a component in omelettes, soups, sauces, and several other culinary concoctions.

Miniature Octopuses

A very popular seafood in the Far East is the Tako, which is a very small member of the octopus family. Alternately, you may also be served immature members of other octopus varieties under this name, as they are indistinguishable from Tako to all but the most seasoned octopus experts.

You’ll find Tako served in a myriad of ways in Japan, North/South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand. In fact, they are one of the most popular pizza toppings in Japan. They can also be found in soups, salads, and egg dishes. Often, they are just eaten alone, with the entrails removed. Tako are becoming increasingly popular here in the USA as Americans are beginning to broaden their culinary horizons. It’s not uncommon to find them in Asian buffet restaurants and in Coastal California, Tako Tacos are starting to pop up on the menu in many food trucks.

Whelk

You may not have heard of whelk if you haven’t traveled abroad or spent some time as a hardcore seafood lover. If this description fits you, you’ll be surprised to learn that whelk is actually a sea snail that is considered to be one of the best tasting seafoods in existence by many leading gourmets. Sure, it’s  a snail and that might initially decrease your appetite. However, pushing your dietary boundaries and discovering delicious new foods is what this post is all about.

There are several different varieties of whelk, with the Common Whelk, Speckled Whelk, Lightning Whelk, Knotted Whelk, and Channeled Whelk all being members of the family. In this article, we’re going to concentrate on the Common Whelk. The Common Whelk displays a beautiful shell that you’ve by no doubt run in to at some point if you’re a beach comber.

In terms of taste, whelk have a sweet and briny flavor which is not extremely different from that of a clam neck. They can be consumed straight out of the shell plain, though whelk are not limited to being served in just this fashion. Whelk are one of the most versatile shellfish out there and can be cooked up in a large variety of delicious ways. At the end of this article, we’ll share one of the many recipe options with you.

Lutefisk

No article on unusual seafood would be complete without a mention of Lutefisk. If you’re of Scandanavian descent or happen to be a fan of King of the Hill, you most likely know what Lutefisk is by now. If not, don’t fret; we’re here to explain it for you. Lutefisk of great cultural importance in Norway. In the Norwegian language, the name Lutefisk translates to “lye fish”. You’ll understand the significance of that in just a moment.

Lutefisk can be made with most any kind of dried whitefish, though Cod is often the fish of choice. The preparation is a long and very detailed one. It is of the utmost importance that the preparation is undertaken with care, caution, and attention to detail, or else you’ll be serving your guests a plate of poison.

The first and foremost step in the preparation process is to soak the dried and salted Cod in cold water for six days, changing the water daily2. Once this is achieved, the fish is then marinated in a mixture of cold water and lye for another 2 days. During this time, the fish will become puffy and take on a form that is almost gelatinous in texture. After this, the fish needs to be removed and soaked in plain water, changed daily, for another six days. This reduces the levels of lye within the fish and makes it safe to eat.

Before cooking, the Lutefisk must be soaked in water (yeah, this again) and then covered in a layer of salt an hour before cooking. At this point, all you have to do is place the fish into a covered small pan and steam it for about 25 minutes. Be forewarned of the fact that even though you might like the taste of Lutefisk, it takes a very special nose to enjoy its pungent aroma.

Now that we’ve introduced you to some of the world’s lesser-known seafood delights, we’ll get to the whelk recipe we promised to share with you earlier.

Whelks with Parsley and Garlic Butter

Ingredients: 1 oz garlic, 2 sticks of unsalted butter, 1 pinch of ground cayenne pepper, salt (to taste), 1.5 oz of flat-leaf parsley (stems removed), 1 lb of whelks, and 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper3.

Directions:

1. Mince the garlic and parsley in a food processor and then add in the butter and spices. Mix the ingredients well.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add in the whelks. Boil them for approximately four minutes and then drain the water.

3. Put the butter mixture into a bowl that will then be fitted into a small sauce pan filled with simmering water. Stir with a whisk until the butter is fully melted and then distribute the mixture into small individual serving bowls in which to dip the now-cooked whelks3.

Works Cited

1. Author Unavailable
Maine Lobster
http://maine-lobster.com/lobster-tomalley-green-stuff

2. Author Unavailable
Common Whelk
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_whelk

Fabricant, Florence
Whelks with Parsley and Garlic Butter
New York Times, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/1014417/whelks-with-parsley-and-garlic-butter.html

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