Challenging Food: Fermented Squid Guts

Izakaya serves drinking food, and for some foods, you need drinks. Really, you do.

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By David Hammond

Izakaya is a type of Japanese restaurant which we've yet to see in Oak Park. It specializes in "drinking food," so obviously would have no place in the ostensibly dry town of ours (insert eye roll here).

A few weeks ago, we had dinner at Izakaya Mita (1960 N. Damen, Chicago), a relatively new place that opened up just steps away from the well-regarded and now shuttered Takashi.

Owner Helen Mita said she wanted to bring us some of her starters, and the first dish she brought to our table was, in her words, "squid guts." That's only half the story: this dish is actually fermented squid guts. Called Shiokara, this dish is traditionally made with the internal organs of any one of a number of marine animals (in addition to squid, there may be oyster, tuna and sea urchin involved); the innards are salted, mixed with malted rice and left to ferment for a month or so. How's that sounding so far?

In the words of the Beastie Boys, "Oh my god that's some funky sh*t."

Drinking foods frequently tend to push the limits.

Balut, fertilized duck eggs containing a small duck that you can eat, bones and all, is most commonly found in Filipino bars, and it's hard to imagine eating something this grotesque without some liquid courage.

Hakarl, the buried and fermented shark meat of Iceland is usually consumed with Black Death, a strong and somewhat harsh rye-flavored distillate…which you really need when eating chunks of cheesy-smelling, literally rotten shark meat.

Helen Mita said more than once that what we were eating was "guts," and I had to believe that this comment was laid down as a kind of challenge. But oddly, I started to like the stuff. Kind of. It was salty, and although the texture is a little slimy (imagine eating a slice of raw liver), it's a suitable accompaniment to beer or saki.

Would I order Shiokara again? Sure…but mostly just to see the expression on my dining companion's face when I tell him/her that it's fermented squid guts.

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Mag Mel  

Posted: August 15th, 2015 9:53 AM

Yup...just what I was thinking when I clicked on your blog post It's disgusting!!! Gross. I can't think of other words right now..oh yes I can. ICK!

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