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I love the freshness of a good plate of sashimi, but eating food that's still moving, or in most cases, still alive is the next level to what I can stomach.
What is Ikizukuri?
Ikizukuri (活き造り), which is in Japanese translates to “prepared alive” and means exactly that. Animals that are being prepared, without first killing them, and then eaten immediately, often still moving and wriggling on your plate.
There is some debate over if ikizukuri or ikezukuri is the right term for this. It seems that the consensus is that ikezukuri is the proper term, and it shows up as far back as the late Edo period according to this article.
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Although Ikizukuri simply means to prepare your food while it's still alive, the animation of the food is what really gets the shock/wow factor.
The emphasis is placed on the animation of food because it is an indication of its freshness.
The most controversial part for most people is that the animals are still alive, though briefly, staring at you as you eat their insides. It kinda reminds me of those cannibal movies where they rip out your heart and make you watch as they eat it. Sick. So controversial, that this form of preparing food is outlawed in Germany and Australia.
Although, in actuality, the moving food is not actually alive at that time. It's mostly the nerves that are causing the movement. The animals are long gone and are not able to “feel” you eating them.
The most common sea animal used in Ikizukuri is fish, but at times, octopus, shrimp, lobster, and even frogs have been used. The below video shows the preparation of a frog in Ikizukuri style and is definitely not for the squeamish.
Apart from sashimi, other methods of preparing live animals exist, like the odori ebi (dancing prawn). Prawns are dunked into sake to intoxicate it and prepared quickly. The person eating the shrimp usually dips the live shrimp into a special dipping sauce and then quickly chews on the animal to kill it.
While the Japanese are known for this method of preparing sashimi, the Chinese have their own way of Ikizukuri, deep-frying the fish and keeping them alive until they are eaten, known as Yin Yang fish.
In Korea, this practice is less cruel. Sannakji which are small octopuses cut into little pieces and usually lightly seasoned with sesame oil and sesame.
While they are already dead, their nerves and suckers are still active, causing them to squirm and stick to the insides of your mouth. I've actually had the opportunity to try this, and let's just say there wouldn't be a second time. While delicious and very fresh, I wasn't sure if it was necessary to eat it this way.
One has to be careful to chew them carefully as several cases of choking have been reported as the suckers stick to your throat when swallowing. Of course, in the below video, I'm gonna show you Sannakji with the octopus still whole.
The Japanese version is served with a rice bowl with a squid stuck on a stick. It is made to dance by firing up its neurons with the sodium found in soy sauce as you can see here.
After seeing all these videos, would you try it?