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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Japanese weird food, the logical next step after raw fish: live fish.

The fish before dancing, just swimming around.
After working from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening, we also had a dinner where the work related talk continued. This time the people from the Fukuoka group had picked a very nice (and quite expensive) traditional Japanese restaurant. It was also right in the fairly short time frame when you can have the Fukuoka specialty "shirauo no odorigui" (シラウオの踊り食い), which roughly translates to "dancing fish".

We got a big dinner with many dishes, and many of them included the shirauo fish that they apparently only get between February and April. The main event was the dancing fish dish though.

This dish sees you getting a big bowl of water in which the tiny shirauo are swimming around. You get a ladle to catch some fish with, and then you put them in your own little bowl. In this bowl you also have a vinegar based liquid. Vinegar is probably quite painful to swim in and get in your eyes, so this makes the fish move very energetically. You then take all this fish and vinegar into your mouth and savor the feeling of fish swimming around like crazy inside your mouth.

Traditionally, you then swallow the fish like that (without chewing or in other ways killing the fish). The lady explaining this dish to us at our restaurant said that if you do not chew the fish you do not get the taste of the fish, so she recommended chewing on them before swallowing. I tried both ways and I didn't think it tasted much of anything except vinegar either way.

My impression was that the dancing fish dish was more of a fun happening than something you would order because you think it tastes good. My boss was ecstatic about how great he thought it was, though. He had had it before, of course (since he is Japanese), but then he did not chew on the fish and the taste was not so exciting he said.

For me, the main problem was that it felt quite cruel to eat the fish like this. I guess it is not that great to be killed in other ways either, so dying in the stomach acids or being chewed to death is perhaps not worse than the more normal ways of being suffocated to death that I guess happen to most of the fish I eat, but the vinegar thing to make them move extra much felt mostly cruel. I figure these fish have too small brains to reflect much on pain, so if you plan to be cruel to something that is alive, this might be on the milder side of being a bad person, at least. Much in the same way that I have very few qualms about killing insects that just happen to lose their way and end up in my apartment.

So, to summarize: quite fun, an interesting experience, would recommend anyone to try it once, would not order it again since it is expensive and not that tasty.

The rest of the dinner was very good too.
Our restaurant is the house on the left that is lit up.

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