Dried “Surume” Squid 網焼するめ

japanese cake

When I posted “Saki-ika” tempura さきイカの天ぷら, I mentioned my childhood memory of whole dried squid called surume するめ. I said;

When I was growing up, “surume”  was a rather common snack, not necessarily just a drinking snack. This was a dried whole flattened squid. To eat, you have to first grill it lightly and then tear it along the grain into thin strips (it can easily be torn into strands by hand with an occasional application of teeth). It is very chewy like old leather and you have to work on it for a while in your mouth before it’s soft enough. As you chew, more flavors will come out. In fact a Japanese saying, “The more you chew, the more flavor you get” 噛めば噛むほど味が出る equates the effort you need to extract full flavor from dried squid to the effort you need to extract meaning and joy out of life; or subtle but real goodness can only be appreciated with substantial effort. But even in Japan, vigorous use of the masseter muscle is not an exercise people like to do.

The other day, when we were cruising the isles of our Japanese grocery store, I found a package of dried “surume” squid (Picture above).

Compared to what I was familiar with when I lived in Japan, this one is much smaller and apparently it has been “grilled” with a secret marinade. I was not sure if this is a modern “tamed” version or close to the original surume I remembered.

After I removed one from the package, I briefly warmed and softened it up over an open gas flame. The legs were folded under the body but after warming they could easily be unfolded.

I cut this into small strips and tried it. Surprisingly, this is very close to what I remembered as “surume”. Very tough and you have to chew for some time before swallowing becomes a safe option. Also the taste is similar to what I remember. I gave one strip to my wife, she gummed at it for a while then spit it out. (Her comment: “Think fishy tasting shoe leather and you’re part way there). (I’m guessing she didn’t particularly like it.) I tried the legs as well. I suppose this is a drinking snack for the desperate. With one of these, you could spend hours chewing and drinking. I have to come up with some way to use up the remaining surume. (my wife suggested burying it).

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