A few weeks ago, I found frozen squid at our Japanese grocery store. I am not sure what the actual name is of this creature but I would say this must be “Surume-ika”スルメイカ or “Yari-ika” ヤリイカ. I have no idea what the English name would be. The only thing I do know is that this is a relatively large squid. While this type of squid is widely available in Japan we never see them at the regular grocery store in the U.S. Since many squid dishes can be made from the more commonly available small squid, I decided to make something different which requires the use of a large squid such as this one. I decided to make rice stuffed squid or “Ikameshi” イカ飯. Actually, in Hokkaido, this is the “star” of the most famous station-box-lunch or ekiben 駅弁 at Mori-machi 森町 station near Hakodate 函館 where squid is one of the famous local catches from the sea.
I served this as a small drinking snack with the side of blanched broccolini. We quickly switched to sake for this dish.
After serving 4 slices for both of us, this is what remained.
The frozen squid was about 10 inches long (just for the body or head portion). I let it thaw out at room temperature for a few hours since I did not have much time (upper left in the picture below). Since this was not cleaned, I had to clean it. I just separated the innards from the body using my fingers then gently pulled the legs until all the innards came out in one piece. I then removed the “cartilage” (transparent long and narrow structure) by just pulling on the end. I cut and separated legs and innards just above the eyes and discarded the innards. There was a hard “beak” in the center of the base of the legs which I removed. I then cut the legs into individual pieces*. I further cleaned and washed the cavity of the body of the squid (upper right in the picture below). I pondered whether I should remove the skin. In the end I did using paper towels to get traction.
* I marinated the legs in the 1:1 mixture of mirin and soy sauce and then grilled them over a charcoal fire when we did “Yakitori” the next day–but did not take pictures. The legs can be cooked with the rest of the squid or even used as a stuffing (cut into small pieces) with rice.
Cooking liquid: I made the cooking liquid with dashi broth (2 cups made from kelp and bonito flakes), sake (1/3 cup), mirin (3 tbs), sugar (3 tbs), and soy sauce (1/2 cup).
Rice: I washed and soaked “mochi-gome” 餅米 or “glutinous” rice over night in the refrigerator (1 cup, this can be had in a Japanese grocery store. It is sticker than regular Japanese rice. This is a particular kind of short grain rice from which “mochi” 餅 or rice cake is made).
I stuffed the squid with the drained glutinous rice. The amount of the rice is crucial. I just filled a bit less than half of the cavity (do not try to use up all the rice). I closed it using a toothpick. Not over filling is important since, when cooked, it will swell up and if overstuffed, it will burst.
I then placed the stuffed squid in a shallow pan and poured in the cooking liquid. I placed an “Otoshi buta” 落とし蓋 and a regular lid and cooked it on a very low flame for over 1 hour turning it once (lower left in the picture above). I took out the cooked squid and let it cool a bit before slicing.
This was a good dish. The rice is very sticky and absorbed all the flavors of squid and the cooking liquid. Just before eating I poured a small amount of the cooking liquid over the rice. I could have made a sauce by reducing the cooking liquid but I did not.
For the leftover piece, a few days later I micro waved it to warm it up a bit which worked well. I hope I can get this type of squid again but this happens only sporadically.