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Jun 15, 2009 05:36 PM

What is it?

Walking on the west side of Spadina Ave. between Nassau St. and Dundas St. the other day, I saw what I think was a Bar-B-Que object hanging in the window of an Oriental butcher shop (I guess you would call it a butcher shop). Chinese? Korean? Vietnamese? It was bright orange in colour, round,flattened,disc-like, about 10 inches in diameter with several thin yellow-orange strands about 6 inches long hanging down. This object was hanging among Bar-b-que ducks and chunks of Bar-b-Que pork. At first glance I thought it was some type of octopus. I was reluctant to enter the store to ask the butcher what it was because I had no intention of purchasing it. It looked creepy. Does anyone know what this thing is called, and what it tastes like? Thank you.

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  1. It's a cuttlefish. It's been slow braised in a soy mixture. It's supposed to be brown if it's done without food colouring, but for some reason people think they like the creepy orange-yellow. It's chewy and a little salty, not much else. It is most definatly texture food.

    1. Do you mean this ? It is cantonese (one kind of chinese cuisine) style "braised soy" cuttlefish. The orange colour is from dye. It is served with braised soy sauce. I like it.

      29 Replies
      1. re: skylineR33

        Looks like the alien invasion plan failed.

        1. re: skylineR33

          Thank you skylineR33 . The object on the left of the picture-cuttlefish-is indeed what I saw.
          Now your picture has further piqued my curiosity. Could you or anyone identify and describe the taste of the other "delicacies" hanging or lying in the picture? Thanks.

          1. re: Doctormhl1

            In the picture, the red sausage is a kind of chinese pork sausage. There are also pork large intestine/small intestine, pork belly, goose intestine, goose liver, goose meat/wing... These are all braised items. Good quality braising sauce is always "home-made" with soy, water, different kinds of spice, seasoning, but not all the restaurant do that. A good restaurant uses the same bowl of "braising sauce" everyday to braise different kinds of "meat". A good braising sauce can be more than 50 years old which give aroma and taste to its fullness.

            1. re: Doctormhl1

              I believe the article hanging to the right of the sausages is a "geoduck" clam. They are prized in Asia because of their resemblance to, ahem, a particular male appendage. I've had it a few times, but I can't say the taste was memorable.

              As for cuttlefish, I think the way to get acquainted with them is at dim sum. They are related to squid, and have much the same texture (i.e. if overcooked, they can a be a little rubbery). What you usually get is baby cuttlefish, about 1-2" in diameter. I've seen it served in both a black bean sauce, or a curry sauce (which I prefer). Unless you're at a very busy place, they will probably be a bit rubbery, but that's OK with me as I expect it. It's a nice contrast to the relatively soft textures of other things we order, like most dumplings, buns, etc. And the best thing is, it's only one dish, and a few bites, so if you don't like it, you've only invested a few bucks. If you've ever ordered calamari at a Greek spot (or anywhere), I don't see why you shouldn't try its cousin.

              1. re: KevinB

                love geoduck as sushi/sashimi (otherwise then known as mirugai)... the texture is a bit crunchy and flavour nicely sweet but mild otherwise.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  Hi pinstripeprincess, "mirugai" is actually not geoduck. The Japanese term for geoduck is "namigai". Namigai is a much bigger clam than mirugai.

                  Mirugai is much sweeter and has a more delicate texture than namgai ! In US and Canada, we only have namigai (geoduck).

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    damn! more mislabeling.

                    now i'm not sure if what i ate in japan was mirugai or namigai. that is a bit disappointing. thanks though!

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      海松貝/ミルクイ (mirugai) can belong to one of three species: panopea abrupta, panopea generosa, or tresus keenae, and also goes by mirukuigai in Japan.

                      白ミル貝 (shiromirugai), or namigai is a "white geoduck." I think this one is panopea japonica. Some people prefer it to regular geoduck.

                      To complicate the matters further, panopea abrupta is also sometimes referred to by a different name (I think it's American mirugai, or something similar, but I can't remember...).

                      I've had both, and as skylineR33 notes above, they are different. I'm not sure what variety we have in Canada.

                      1. re: tjr

                        the geoduck (panopea abrupta) we get is mainly from BC, the license holders are making a killing each year selling the majority of it to China. I've been told someone in particular holds a large # of licenses, bought years ago when nobody wanted them (very hard work harvesting), also before Asians started tapping BC for geoduck. Needless to say, he's one rich man.

                        1. re: aser

                          Well, now the "American" part makes sense. Sometimes I'm completely clueless!

                        2. re: tjr

                          海松貝 is actually Tresus Keenae. You won't be able to find 海松貝 (mirugai) anywhere in Canada. Even in Japan, it is not easy to find. To me, it looks quite different from geoduck both in color and size.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            Yep, it does. All three species are commonly seen as ミルクイ on Japanese menus though, with 海松貝 (T. keenae) being the one originally attributed the name.

                            1. re: tjr

                              Yes, on most Japanese menu, geoduck is also listed as Mirugai. But there is acutally a characteristic why "海松貝/ミルクイ/T. keenae" (a gaper clam, not geoduck) is named Mirugai, a geoduck does not have that characteristic.

                              1. re: skylineR33

                                Of course, but I was just indicating that restaurants in Japan will serve all three species as "mirugai," which is probably why pinstripeprincess would be easily confused.

                                1. re: tjr

                                  besides size, what are the other physical characteristics might i be able to use to differentiate between species? the ones that i ate in japan were certainly smaller than the geoducks i see in grocery stores here and were more tender (the "mirugai" at taro's definitely has a crunch to it) but otherwise they appeared the same in terms of shape and overall colouring.

                                  so even if i were to go to yasuda in nyc, i can expect that they wouldn't have the other two species referred to here? is demand dictating the availability or are the other species not found on our coasts? or other..?

                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                    The Mirugai's tenderness probably had more to do with its preparation or freshness than where it was from. You also probably won't see a huge difference in size or coloring, they're pretty much either brown, or a light fleshy color.

                                    I was actually at Yasuda on Friday and they had Mirugai from around Shikoku/Honshu which is for the most part where Japanese Mirugai comes from aside from Canada and Korea.

                                    It's like the Dai of shellfish with all these names, it's very easy to get it confused:

                                    Atlantic Miru

                                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                      If you think what you have in Canada is more or less the same colour and size as the actual Mirugai (ミルクイ, 海松貝) that is only found in Japan, you should take a look at these pictures.

                                      The first one is the real mirugai (海松貝) from Japan, the second one is geoduck from BC.

                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                        I was talking about the Japanese breed only. Should have been more specific.

                                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                          I see, P.I.G. For Japanese breed, there is only one breed of true Mirugai/Mirukui, which is 海松貝. Umitake in your list is also a Japanese clam, but a different clam which has a way longer siphon than Mirugai, its sweetness cannot be compared to Mirugai, not even Geoduck. Mirugai (海松貝) is getting less and less in Japan and rarely export out to other countries. It is way more expensive compared to other kind of Mirugai substitute (such as Geoduck or the Japanese breed white Namigai) used in most restaurant including restaurants in Japan.

                                          1. re: skylineR33

                                            Oh yeah, agreed. I just made the list to exemplify the many names it can be called and/or confused with even in Japan.

                                  2. re: tjr

                                    Depends, Some do, but not all. I have been to restaurants that have it right.

                                    (ナミガイ, 白みる) - namigai
                                    (ミルクイ, 海松貝) - mirugai

                                    They have a different price tag too.

                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                      Namigai and mirugai is easy to differentiate; many places will list p. abrupta, p. generosa, or t. keenae as mirugai. P. japonica is the only species that will be called namigai.

                                      This is what I was referring to above, not that mirugai and namigai are confused; which, in Japan, they aren't.

                                      1. re: tjr

                                        I guess than what I am trying to say is P. abrupta is the same kind as P. generosa, which is geoduck from US area (such as BC) and is a giant clam, P. japonica is the same genus but a smaller kind from Japan area.

                                        T. keenae is a caper clam, smaller, a total different clam than the formers and should be the only one that is called Mirugai (海松貝/ミルクイ), whereas the other three are called (ナミガイ, 白みる) Namigai. There are restaurants that do it right out there.

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          Yes, there are restaurants that get it right, but in Japan many of the species are seen as substitutes for the other. 白海松貝, for instance:


                                          1. re: tjr

                                            Ok, this is back to mislabelling again for those case that use it as substitute and use the same name. Many have include the word '白' which means 'white' to distinguish them. I think this is the whole point of it right from the beginning of this discussion. This one even has a different taste, texture and look.

                                            1. re: skylineR33

                                              Yes, I know the difference between them. I was just speaking (again) to pinstripeprincess' experience in Japan, and how it could be possible that she received a different item than what was expected. To play on 白, the same thing happens here with "white tuna" actually being escolar most of the time (and not tuna at all).

                                              Mislabeling of products can be fairly common in Japan as well (just look at the recent high-profile restaurant collapses that had to do with mislabeled beef). At many average sushi restaurants in Japan, mirugai will often be substituted with geoduck, because it's cheaper, and it is a common replacement. People know and don't really care, I guess.

                                              1. re: tjr

                                                Agreed. Anyway, I like both of the clams.

                                      2. re: skylineR33


                                        (Note the shell is white.) Also the Kanji is 波貝

                                        Note that the file name is correct, ミルクイ is mirukui which is the official name (according to that site). ミルガイ or mirugai is the "market" name.

                      2. re: KevinB

                        Hi KevinB, it is not geoduck. The one on the right of the red sausage is pork large intestine and to the right of the intestine is the whole pork face including the nose and the ear. These are all very common braised items that can be found in many chiu chow (one kind of cantonese) restaurants. Geoduck is never prepared this way, it will be too rubbery. Geoduck is always eaten either raw or quick wok-fried, or as an item in hot pot in which you boil it for a few sec and eat it.

                  2. yes it's cuttlefish. i buy half of the beast, sliced. nice with a beer.

                    1. The original comment has been removed
                      1. I love the BBQ cuttlefish, but one is too much for one person. It's best eaten fresh and I had to throw some out the one time I bought it.