Thursday, September 29, 2011

Weird or disgusting food series: tachi/shirako (fish sperm)

In Japan people eat a lot of weird things. Some of the weird stuff I have eaten here would be considered strange by most Japanese people too (for instance many insects), and some would be considered perfectly normal (for instance whale meat).

The topic of today's blog entry, tachi (or shirako) belongs in the later category, completely normal food. It can be served raw (common) or cooked in various ways. I have tried it lightly grilled (first time I had it), raw (also that same night), tempura fried, and raw in soy sauce together with raw oysters (a New Years feast delicacy). It is also common in miso soup and on sushi.

Raw fish sperm. Apparently delicious.

Tachi does not taste very much at all, and the taste is not bad, unless you really dislike raw fish taste, but then a lot of Japanese food will be tough for you. When you eat it, it is very soft and it kind of just melts in your mouth. This is apparently one of the good things about tachi from the perspective of most of my Japanese friends, but to me it is quite disgusting and one of the reasons I dislike this food...

Another reason to dislike tachi is the look of it. It looks as if someone handed you a raw brain from a small animal. Even Japanese people admit that it looks like a brain, but they helpfully tell you: "No, no, it just looks like a brain. It is actually sperm." I am not entirely convinced that this is so much more appetizing though...

This used to be cheap food I am told, and many people have fond memories of eating lots of this when they were kids. Nowadays it is considered more of a delicacy and is usually a bit expensive. It is not hard to find, though. Most izakaya (Japanese bars) have it on the menu in different forms, and many kaiten-zushi ("conveyor belt" sushi bars, sushi moves by you and you grab anything that looks good) serve it at least during the tachi season of the year.

Taste: not that bad (but not really good)
Texture: disgusting (melts in your mouth in a disgusting way)
Look: disgusting (looks like the raw brain of a small animal)
Misc: is actually raw sperm, and thinking of this may be unappetizing to some

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