Ikizukuri is a Japanese technique that involves serving sashimi from a fish that’s fileted while leaving it’s heart still beating, it’s internal organs still intact.
This sounds strange to Westerners, because we tend to distance ourselves from our food sources. We don’t want to think about where our food comes from. But Japanese tradition holds that we should be grateful to the animals who give us sustenance , and to acknowledge our relationship to them.
Typically ikizukuri style is used with fish like carp or snapper, octopus, squid, lobster or shrimp. This is a very old technique, at least 2000 years old, first brought to the West a decade ago by Nobu Matsuhisa.
In this style, as in all Japanese cuisine, presentation is essential. The form of the animal is preserved by using it as the serving mechanism. But it doesn’t merely serve an aesthetic purpose, this style of sashimi declares to the recipient that it is demonstrably as fresh as possible. If it’s still moving, it is indisputably fresh.
Our Maine lobster was not only the ultimate in “fresh” but actually tasted different. The basic idea is that when animals die, the tissue begins to deteriorate. That process of chemical decomposition changes the taste. So eating it as soon as possible ensures the sweetest, most tender lobster; if it sits around it gets tough and bland.
I think it’s bad that so many modern Westerners want to disconnect from our food sources. Our food comes from plants and animals, and embracing that connection with the other living organisms on earth is important. Death sustains life, and realizing you’re part of that cycle is to become more aware of yourself and your role in the greater ecosystem.
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