Japan from the inside out

Good eating

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 19, 2012


It’s been my experience that any animal that comes out of salty water is good eating.
– from the story The Black Clams in Old Man Flood, by Joseph Mitchell

HUGH Flood, the Old Man Flood of the story, was referring to gastropod pests called quarterdecks, a limpet that attaches itself to oysters and smothers them to death. He convinced the owner of an oyster bed the parasites had ruined to eat a few raw, and he thought they tasted like the tomalley of a lobster.

If Flood was willing to eat those, he’d have been more than ready to eat one of the delicacies of Ryugatake-machi on Amakusa island in Kumamoto — starfishes.

Actually, they don’t eat the starfish themselves but the eggs that fill up their body cavities. Stick them in a pot with water and salt, boil them for 30 minutes, and the Amakusans are set for some good eating.

They used to be plentiful and eaten mixed with sea urchins and clams, but the water isn’t as clean as it once was. Still, it’s not so dirty that the treat can’t be enjoyed from February to the beginning of May, when they’re in season.

Starfish eggs are said to taste like sea urchin, or uni in Japanese, which is a common seafood ingredient for sushi. I like that a lot myself and think the flavor resembles what Baltimoreans call mustard. That’s the yellow (and sometimes greenish) material that collects in the shells of crabs they eat from the Chesapeake Bay. If that’s what they taste like, they’re good eating indeed.

If you want to find out more about these funky epicurean delights, you can buy the Cooking Starfish in Japan e-book for JPY 980 and read and see all about it.

Or, you can watch this Youtube, which shows you everything from start to finish in just under five minutes.

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