One of our more popular and certainly one of the most interesting features of our blog is the bizarre seafood thing. We have to admit, we love reading about this stuff just as much as you do. Sometimes you see something that’s just so crazy and just so disgusting that you simply can’t look away. Other times you can walk away without eating it, and maybe the YouTube clip at the end of this video on how to prepare a sea pineapple will have that effect.
Taking a visit to Southeast Asia, the first bizarre seafood for today is the bluntly named fish sauce. Fish sauce is a brown liquid condiment that is very strong in both odor and in flavor. It is highly popular in Thailand – sort of like the Thai ketchup if you will. In addition to Thailand, it is also heavily consumed in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
There really is no one specific kind of fish or even seafood variety that is used for making fish sauce. Any living sea creature that a fisherman pulls up in his nets is fair game for this condiment. Once the catch of the day is sold to a fish sauce-producing company, it is time for the transformation into fish sauce to begin.
The process for making fish sauce is a somewhat long and arduous one. The first step is to rinse and drain all of the fish before heavily salting them. They are then transferred into large clay vats containing yet more salt. Once inside of the vats, the fish-sauces-to-be are covered with a bamboo mat and weighed down with heavy rocks1. The vats are then moved outside into a sunny area where they will sit for up to a year as the fish sauce ferments.
When ready, the fish sauce is siphoned out of the vats, with any solid matter being filtered out. The liquid is then placed into much smaller clear glass jars an kept outside for a few days to air out. This is done to reduce the overpowering odor that is produced by the sauce. After this, the bottles are capped and shipped off to stores and restaurants where local residents can buy and enjoy this slightly left-of-field condiment.
For our next bizarre seafood, we’re going to spin the globe a bit and land in Iceland to discuss hakarl for a bit. This is one of the most officially recognized national dishes of Iceland, thought it’s definitely an acquired taste and isn’t so popular in most other countries. Read on and you’ll understand the reasons why.
Hakarl is made from the flesh of the Greenland shark and is unmistakable due to its starkly ammonia-heavy scent and taste. While it is most prominently served during the Icelandic winter festival of Porrablot2, it is available in many Icelandic grocery stores year-round.
To make hakarl, one first has to catch a Greenland shark and then behead it. Once this deed is done, the shark is buried in the sand, where it will remain for up to three months so that the fermentation process may be completed. After this, the shark meat is exhumed from its temporary sandy grave. The next step is to slice up the flesh and then hang it up from wooden rafters where it will remain hanging for several months. Eventually, a brown crust will form over the meat and this indicates that it’s finally “ripe”. The brown substance is removed before consumption however.
Hakarl is served in two main varieties – the chewy red “glerhakarl” cut from the shark’s stomach and the white “skyrhakarl” cut from the flanks2. Even hardcore food fans such as Anthony Bourdadin, Gordon Ramsay, and Andrew Zimmern have experienced a great degree of difficultly in eating hakarl and then managing to keep it down.
Heading back to Asia, Gejang raw crab is the next item on our menu of culinary oddities. Primarily a Korean food, Gejang consists of raw crabs marinated in soy sauce and/or chili peppers. This is a very old recipe, with historical records confirming that it has been around since at least the fourteenth century.
Being that crab meat, at least when served uncooked, is rather chilly, it has been believed for centuries in North and South Korea that consuming it will go far in battling a fever. In its most traditional composition, Gejang is made from freshwater crabs. Unfortunately, the numbers of freshwater crabs have greatly dwindled over the years, so now saltwater crabs are often employed in this particular meal as well.
To prepare Gejang, you must first thoroughly wash and rinse the crabs you’re going to use. They are then placed in salt-filled jugs for six hours. As the crabs sit inside of the jugs, a sauce composed of sugar, garlic, scallions, ginger, chili peppers and sesame oil is concocted.
When the six hours of salting are over, the crabs are removed from the jugs and placed in a bowl along with the sauce. This arrangement will last for an hour, after which the sauce is drained out and boiled, and then subsequently placed back into the bowl with the crabs for another hour. This process is repeated four times. Once the boiling cycles are over and the sauce has been chilled along with the crabs, the Gejang is finally ready to be eaten.
The last peculiar seafood treat (well, it may or may not be a treat, depending on personal tastes) that we’ll talk about today is the Hoya, or sea pineapple. The sea pineapple is a very unique creature. It isn’t a fish, it’s not coral, it doesn’t qualify as shellfish and it’s not a mollusk either. Simply stated, a sea pineapple is just a sea pineapple. Sea pineapples that grow in the wild are usually white in color, though those raised by humans usually take on a deep orange hue.
Japan, North Korea and South Korea are the nations in which sea pineapple is most frequently eaten. This animal possesses a very hard outer shell that must be cracked through in order to get to the meat that lies inside. In this way, they are quite similar to sea urchins.
The meat of a sea pineapple has a very soft and unique texture and a taste that has strong overtones of iodine. It is most commonly served as an ingredient in sushi or sashimi. According to leading seafood experts, it goes great with Sake, which is a traditional Japanese rice-based wine.
We’ll close out this chapter of bizarre seafood facts with a YouTube video featuring instructions on how to prepare sea pineapple sashimi. We hope you enjoyed reading this article and will tune in again later this year when we give part two on our Bizarre Seafoods series for 2016.
1. Loha-Unchit, Kasima
How Fish Sauce is Made
Thai Food and Travel
2. Author Unavailable