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Squid- The insides of the squid

Does anyone know if the insides (the clear gel) of the squid body are edible?

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  1. Throw that away! You want the body and the tentacles. Remove the beak too, found in trhe middle of the tentacles.

    1. The guts won't hurt you, but personally I find it disgusting.

      In my experience it's usually not clear. Sometimes there's half-digested food, which sometimes includes smaller squid.

      1. I agree about removing all the innards (stomach, gonads, etc.). I also recommend removing the thin shiny membrane covering the outside of the mantle (body) if it is still there and the cartilagilous "fins".

        Squid anatomy:

        1 Reply
        1. re: maviris

          The fins are fine, they make odd looking calamari and are slightly chewier than the body meat, but I don't throw them out!

        2. At authentic sushi bars, they will sometimes offer shiokara, which my favorite sushi bar translates as "salted squid guts." Very strongly flavored, but tasty. Sortof an off pink color. Don't know how it's made or what kind of squid and guts are used, so I certainly wouldn't try to make it at home.


          4 Replies
          1. re: Ed Dibble

            I have a recipe for it - if you dare ask - in "Quick and Easy tsukemono."

            Tried this once...only thing I will not eat again - without copious amounts of sake.

            1. re: kare_raisu

              If you ever get to Sakura in SD, try it there. Kazu makes it himself, and it is quite good. Of course, sake does help.


            2. re: Ed Dibble

              Ah yes... the infamous salty, fermented, squid guts. GAG!

              1. re: JMF

                Even most Japanese don't like to eat it so much. It's not generally a good part of the squid compared to the leg, IMO.

            3. Here's an old post of mine where I explain how shiokara is made, at least how I was taught to make it, and also a way to "make sense of it". http://www.chowhound.com/topics/346548

              Essentially I argue that a lot of shiokara's "nasty rep" is due to some very unfriendly English descriptions on menus and product packages. It's hard to imagine a more repulsive name than "fermented squid with the guts". Indeed the average American is probably pre-disposed to cringe at even the thought of eating any cephalopod, (many CH'ers and foodies excluded, of course, as well as lovers of deep- or pan-fried calamari steaks and rings!), let alone one that's advertised as being fermented with it's guts! But as many have learned to enjoy squid and octopus even in it's more unadorned forms at the sushi bar, the cephalopod barrier is just a distant memory for many.

              So I say it's time to rethink shiokara, and in the meantime also retweak the English desciption. Yes, shiokara definitely contains squid, so that part stays, and yes it is definitely fermented, so we keep that part of the name too. But I say we banish the part of its name that's the least "marketing friendly", the "guts" part, and simply replace it with "liver". (After all there are many who love the taste of liver, right?)

              And this "reform" is by no means an attempt to try and hide what's in this much-maligned dish. On the contrary shiokara uses the squid's liver only and does not use the rest of its guts. The squid happens to have a very large liver in proportion to the rest of its body, and it's the liver's contents that makes up half of the shiokara, the other half being simply sliced squid. The rest of the squid is quite happily discarded when making up a shiokara. (Phew! There can be some funky-looking things in there. No, your squid didn't swallow a floating piece of sea-faring plastic. ***That*** is just its plastic-like quill!) To this simple two-part mixture, salt, chili pepper, and sometimes citrus zest is added.

              So while this may not be enough of a name reform to inaugurate a new flood of shiokara fans, at least it might bring in those who have stayed on the shiokara "sidelines", scared away from playing the game by the thought of "fermented guts" but otherwise would have given it the 'old college try. So to those brave souls the coach is calling you to get back on the field - it's your turn.

              Squid, it's liver, salt, chili pepper, citrus zest - that's all - and yes, it's fermented. To me this hardly sounds worthy of being the subject of a "Fear Factor" challenge, nor the subject of many "strange/bizarre" food websites. ...and doesn't the squid illustration look pretty cute and harmless, afterall?

              Your thoughts?

              5 Replies
              1. re: cgfan

                Very thoughtful post Cgfan, it does make me rethink my initial aversion to the dish. I love tomalley in the lobster (also liver, although i may sadly have developed an aversion to the stuff :( ) so how is squid liver any different? Love your squid picture too.

                We had better get used to squid! Squid and jellyfish may be the only seafood left soon, the rate we are overfishing. If I see Shiokara on a menu, I shall certainly give it a try. But I fear that may have to wait for a trip to Japan, as I have never seen it on a menu here in North America. I obviously need to search out more authentic sushi bars.

                1. re: moh

                  The shiokara might be easier to find than you might otherwise think. If your sushi bar is traditionally-run and has a Japanese chef, than odds are high that he will have shiokara prepared, if for no other reason than for his own consumption. This is because it's an effective way of using more of the squid, such as its tentacles and the "ears", both of which are generally not used for sushi. Traditionally-run, I say, since these will be the shops that actually still preps their fish "from scratch", rather than use pre-prepped fish from their vendor. I've never seen it listed on a sushi bar menu myself, but it's almost always available if you ask.

                  Another place to ask is at an izakaya. Many will have shiokara, though at an izakaya I'd expect it to be explicitly listed on the menu and not an "off-menu" item. (Izakaya are Japanese-style pubs, and the food offerings are meant to go with drink. Shiokara is a classic bar-type dish to complement drink...)

                  Though beef liver tastes different than chicken liver, and different still to that of monkfish liver and goose liver, etc., I find that there's a common taste to any liver that I've ever eaten. I can't describe it, but the recognition is there. I trust that anyone who enjoys liver would see the "logic" in squid liver and it's use in shiokara.

                  And I also should have mentioned - though shiokara is typically fermented, I actually end up consuming most of it immediately after preparation, by which time it definitely is not fermented yet. So if it's in part the fermentation that makes you leery, ask your sushi chef or izakaya when it was last prepared. More often than not it's probably still pretty fresh, and usually at most a few days to a week "old".

                  I'm glad you're considering giving it another try. One's expectations to a dish can be so colored by its naming, and can even affect one's perception of its taste. Every time I see shiokara translated as "fermented squid and guts" it makes me cringe too, and this is coming from someone who enjoys it!

                  Descriptions like that reminds me of Dan Akroyd's infamous "Bass-O-Matic" skit on SNL, where he runs a blender info-mercial that's used to blend a whole bass, skin, bones, guts, head and all, into a nutritious drink. Well I can assure everyone that shiokara is not the Japanese equivalent of squid processed in a Bass-O-Matic!

                2. re: cgfan

                  You may be right about a name/description change. The first time I had it, I was drinking after hours with a sushi chef who I knew well, and he pulled out a jar of it and let me try it. I think he was surprised when I said I liked it, and then he told me what it was.

                  But I hadn't had it again until I found it on the menu at Izakaya Sakura in San Diego - where it is very well prepared. However, I'm not sure if I would have ordered it if I hadn't had it before.

                  Of course, sometimes I will order the weirdest sounding thing on a menu, figuring that if it sounds really weird to an old white guy, it is probably intended for a different, more interesting customer base.


                  1. re: cgfan

                    I happen to have acquired a taste for shiokara during a fairly lengthy stay (eight years) in Japan back in the 1960's. As an accompaniment to a cold beer or a cup of warm sake I can think of nothing better with the possible exception of Korean spicy fermented squid.

                    I am lucky enough to live in an area (Nashville, Tn.) where both are available.

                    1. re: cgfan

                      Wow, thanks for the visual of a squid. I find them to be delicious!

                    2. Squid guts are one of the very few things that I have seen Koreans throw out.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: hannaone

                        I was actually going to ask, isn't there a korean dish (which I just ate for breakfast with some jook) where you take raw squid and it's guts and you salt them heavily and lots of hot pepper? I wonder if it's just the squid or the guts are included. They have to be, because the sauce is so "mucousy"

                        either way its super tasty and I'd imagine it tastes slightly similar to shiokara (never had it btw).

                        not related but I have heard of adding shiokara as the "fish agent" to kimchi and apparently it comes out very tasty

                        1. re: bitsubeats

                          Bitsibeats, I thought this dish was "mucousy" because of the raw squid, something that happens when you ferment a raw seafood product, not a result of squid guts. But I am not sure now.

                          Any other thoughts on this one?

                          1. re: bitsubeats

                            Don't know anything about that dish.
                            There is a "squid sausage" (Ojingeo Soondae) that can sometimes have that texture.

                            1. re: hannaone

                              i asked my mom and it's called Oijingeo jeot...oh and there are no guts in it but damn does it taste fishy

                        2. Squid guts are edible, though they can take on an unappetizing, slightly gritty texture when cooked.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: JungMann

                            There's a sushi place in Manhattan that serves them, and while I'm usually not a fan of really strong flavors (uni, for example), I loved the squid guts!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Interesting, I don't find uni as a strong flavor. When it is good and fresh, it tastes light and like the sea. Maybe bad uni is strong?

                              1. re: justagthing

                                Thank you! I couldn't figure out what someone was talking about when they referred to the strong flavor of uni. I even looked up web info on the different kinds of sea urchin to see if there was some exotic species I've never tried that was "strong." I've concluded that either I can't tast the strong flavor, or they're talking about spoiled uni.

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Hmm - maybe I'll have to give it another try and come up with a better adjective than strong. My husband loves it and I'm sure when I had it, he did too and that it wasn't spoiled. Next time I go to Yasuda I'll give it whirl and report back!

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    I suspect that we might be in danger of over-interpreting what one means by "strong". I think in culinary circles it can be a difficult word to use, and personally I try to avoid its use. To some it may mean just very flavorful, perhaps even too flavorful, while to others "strong" has the further implication that it has an "off" component to it.

                                    I suspect MMRuth is using it in the first sense; afterall it's not as if she thought it was spoiled, just not to her liking.

                                    In my experience live uni is very light and clean in flavor, but never seems to have the butteriness nor mouth-filling flavors that I normally associate with uni. In general, though, there are many sushi tane that when prepared live is almost always less flavorful or developed than if left to age. Sushi tane develops its character depending on the item. For tuna it might take some 5-7 days, for kohada it will develop over 3-4 days, every day gradually developing more and more flavor until it precipitously drops in quality.

                                    (It's the inverse of freshly roasted coffee, which improves relatively quickly over the first 3-5 days after roast, where after it slowly deteriorates in quality over the next 2 weeks or so... However with both there's usually something to be said for being "too fresh"...)

                                    The other thing that will affect uni's taste is the quality and health of the kelp beds on which it feeds. And like the note on aging, it's an almost universal thing. The better tasting tane will be from waters where its food supply is also in the best condition. In fact with many sushi tane one can literally taste what the tane has fed on when it was still alive. At my regular sushi bar the head chef practically stopped sourcing uni for an entire season due to the effect that the storms had on the kelp beds. (If only more sushi chefs where that conscientious on quality control!)

                                    So my suspicion is that MMRuth may want to seek out live uni. That'll mean it's kept live in its shell and prepped to order. It'll certainly be much lighter in taste than normally prepped uni, and perhaps more to her liking. Personally I will almost always favor uni that has been prepped in the standard way rather than live.

                                    I think it's a common misnomer that a bad sushi bar has tane that's too old, and a good sushi bar has tane that's very "fresh", and even live. It has been my experience that the bad sushi bar more simply does not purchase good tane of good quality. I hope it's left to just a minor few that will actually serve tane that's "out of date". (I've been to many, many a bad sushi bar [unfortunately in the States, most of them are], yet I can only think of one that I thought was actually serving tane past its date...) And likewise the good sushi bar, in my personal experience, knows when, how, and where every single tane they use in the shop has been harvested, and most importantly how that impacts flavor, and how each tane develops over time.

                                    One of the things that I occasionally like to do is to "follow" a particularly good tane on consecutive visits (day after day) to the sushi bar to track its development. It's indeed a very eye-opening experience to not only see how a day of rest can dramatically improve the flavor of a tane, but transform it as well.

                                    1. re: cgfan

                                      Thanks for all of that - I'm now (kind of) looking forward to trying uni again. It's been a long time since I tried it, but the only equivalent I can think of, in terms of my use of the word "strong", is my reaction to some offal is the same. I have to work on my food adjectives!

                                      1. re: cgfan

                                        Well, in my experience, a sushi bar is not the best place to eat uni. The best place is sitting in a scuba diver's boat, grabbing the urchin out of his hands while he's still in the water, cutting out the mouth, rinsing the insides in the ocean, then dig in with a spoon! We used to "lunch" from the giant kelp beds off of La Jolla Shores near San Diego at least once a week.

                                        There is a fresh fish supplier in San Diego (too lazy to look their website up) that does have fresh uni, probably from those same kelp beds, who does ship all over the country.

                                        And what you say about what the urchins are feeding on effecting their flavor is absolutely true! I wish I knew what the critter had been munching on, but one time (and one time only) I ate an urchin whose roe tasted like fresh spring flowers! Fabulous! I ate four more urchins that day, but none tasted like flowers.

                                        When you're a long way inland and yearning for the sea, uni in a sushi bar is okay. Best when from live urchins, in my opinion. But never ever as good as when sitting in a diving boat!

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          My husband gets them that way in the Dominican Republic. He does also sometimes get them from our local fishmonger, where they clean them for you on the spot.

                              2. whenever my mom would get a whole giant squid, there would usually be some roe among the insides. she would steam this up with a little soy sauce and garlic and eat the whole thing by herself...the rest of us enjoyed the body and legs boiled and dipped in a spicy korean sauce.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: soypower

                                  ah yes nothing better than squid dipped in chojang. When my sister and I were little we couldn't handle the chojang so my mom gave us ketchup instead to dip it in and we felt special bc it kind of looked like chojang (:

                                2. When it comes to "innards" from any creature, I'm not all that thrilled with the idea. Probably the closest I've come to sea critter innards was in California when my husband fed us with fruits of the sea. One of the critters that would sometimes come home in the bag full of abalone were turban snails. Unlike abs, which are amazingly easy to clean, a turban snail is a different matter. They have a shell "shoe" on their foot, and when they're alive, they pull themselves inside the turban shaped shell with the shell shoe clamped shut like an iron prison door with their meat and innards behind it. Ain't no way you can get them out! So the problem is, how to cook them? I was familiar with other sea critters cooked whole in their shells -- clams, mussels, lobster, crabs... Why not? I soon found out. BECAUSE TURBAN SNAILS DON'T TASTE GOOD THAT WAY!!!

                                  Of course, there is the possibility that squid innards, when eaten raw, may not have that yucky flavor that turban snails have when cooked whole. But I thought about the turban snails when I watched Anthony Bourdain eat a whole duck that had been roasted in mud, feathers, innards and all. He SAID it tasted good, but I think he tells lies for PR purposes. Like not hurting a host's feelings.

                                  On the other hand, I don't mind shrimp that haven't been deveined. Other kinds of innards -- turban snail, duck -- I think you have to be incredibly hungry or incredibly drunk. I rarely allow myself to get into either condition. '-)

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Speaking of turban snail, here are some pics I took at the sushi bar... And no, I was neither incredibly hungry nor drunk; however I did accidentally try to bite into it's "trap door", the spiral-looking thing that you see in the pics, thinking it was something akin to a scallop. Was I ever wrong! (Hey, it was my first time eating turban snail (sazae)...) Quickly found out that the "trap door" was just a protective piece of shell!


                                    1. re: cgfan

                                      Good thread...

                                      I love sazae and eat them all the time in Japan. The meat tastes similar to some types of clam. It's usually eaten as sashimi or is simply grilled. Many times, it's done in a light soy sauce. The liver can be quite bitter (and slimy) though. However, if the shell is overcooked on the grill, the meat will come out rubbery and horribly inedible...I like it as sashimi the best. Nice toothsome-ness or "hagotai" to it.

                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        ...Come to think of it, they probably steam it as well....Grilled "sazae" is usually called "sazae tsuboyaki".

                                        1. re: Silverjay

                                          I used to eat these pickled in a Korean restaurant in Saitama prefecture Japan years ago. They were lightly pickled with a dash of hot chili and were wonderful with a cold beer or two.

                                        2. re: cgfan

                                          Wow, those turban snails look huge in the picture! How big are they in real life? I have only seen big edible snails in a market in Ghana.

                                          1. re: moh

                                            They are pretty big, but may not be as big as they used to be if they've been over harvested. Some of the shells I still have are six inches in diameter, and about that in height. I have had some larger b ut didn't keep them because they wouldn't fit in the large glass container I kept shells in for a while.

                                            Next time anyone has a turban snail in a sushi bar, take the shell home with you. You can clean it down to the nacre, or mother of pearl, by soaking it for a few minutes in muriatic acid that you get from a swimming pool supply store. Don't know if char broiling them in the shell would ruin the shell for cleaning this way or not, but what do you have to loose by trying? My guest bath is decorated with abalone shells, turban snail shells, keyhole limpet shells, and interesting scallop shells with barnacle shells attached that I cleaned with muriatic acid. And I remember every delicious bite every time I look at them! '-)

                                            1. re: E Eto

                                              You know, these turban snails photos (yours and cgfan's) don't look like the turban snails that I ate. If I can EVER find my digital camera, I'll take a photo of mine and post it. But don't hold your breath.

                                            2. re: cgfan

                                              The operculum ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operculu... ) ain't great eating ...
                                              though those of other species do have their use ...
                                              Sazae, served with their wata, need to be *very* fresh ... as in *very* live.
                                              And if Eto's link wasn't shot in Japan, I'd surely be appreciative to know where they dined.

                                              1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                                I had my sazae at Kaito, in Encinitas, CA (North San Diego County).

                                                Here's a collection of their wonderful offerings on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/res...

                                                1. re: cgfan

                                                  Greatly appreciated, since I'll be out in LA/SD soon.

                                                  1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                                    TDLOA: But not too soon... They're in the middle of a move and so have been closed for a few weeks. Might be another 2-4 weeks until they reopen...

                                                    I'm sure someone would post status in this thread when they're back up and running: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/489156

                                          2. I cleaned whole squid last night for the first time, and I have to say it was ridiculously time consuming I spent about 30 minutes on a pound of squid. The guts were the most potent-smelling and I had to rinse several times to get the smell off of my hands.

                                            One thing I discovered that may help you clean faster is that the outer membrane (the spotted skin) is easily pulled off en masse if you grab and pull it at the right angle from the bottom of the body. It's kind of like the membrane that surrounds a hardboiled egg. Also, even though it feels really digusting, the fastest way to remove the guts and spine is to stick your pointer finger all the way up the inside of the body and then scrape everything out.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: mayt

                                              mayt: Squid is very easy to prep. About the trick to get the skin off the flesh, here's the trick used by the sushi chefs.

                                              Simply grab the two "ears" of the squid between your fingers and pull away from the body. The skin in that area is particularly resilient, and so will likely pull a strip of skin off the squid along with the ears. At that point it's easy to get purchase where the skin ripped off, and most often it all comes off in one to two pulls.

                                              The guts should not be "potent smelling", at least if fresh. Perhaps the squid you had was not very fresh? (A good sign I've observed is that if not absolutely fresh the inner part of the "tube" that makes contact with the guts very quickly becomes tinged, rather than stay a pristine white.)

                                              I have a video of the entire process when my sushi chef offered to prep my store-bought squid. Unfortunately it did not load successfully into Flickr. If and when I do get it up there, I'll repost a link here.

                                            2. Absolutely. If you ever get really tiny baby squid, you don't even have to clean them, just eat them whole! I the larger squid I only discard the cuttlebone, beak, and the insides of the head.

                                              I make my own salty squid, shio-ika, by slicing the cleaned squid into thin strips not rings, separating the tentacles, and including the guts.. Just salt to taste and let sit for 2-3 days until nice and slimy. Delicious with hot rice!!