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Become A Sake Connoisseur: Quirky Japanese Delicacy Guide

Food & Recipes

Everyone prefers to learn about “the popular appetizers” that the Japanese often order at Izakaya restaurants in Japan.

Yet, it’s just a prologue to becoming a Sake connoisseur at home.

There are thousands of unique food all over the world, often, they sound really weird and “no thank you” to us who come from different cultures.

Needless to say, my country, Japan can be found as one of the top countries that have unique food.

Sushi, sashimi, grilled eel?

Come on! They are not “delicacies” at all!

These quirky Japanese delicacies that I introduce today may sound disgusting to you, but, hope you’ll read this post with respect. LOL.

By the way, delicacy (delicacies) in Japanese is “Chinmi” (珍味) and literally means “quirky taste”.

Some of the delicacies that I introduce today are tasty, and others are literally “quirky taste” and not so much.

Grilled Shishamo Fish

“Shishamo” in Japanese refers to “willow leaf fish” or “shishamo smelt” and is the common fish to grill for Izakaya appetizer.

Umm, since they are so small and packed with roe they don’t go for the main dish generally, at least in my home.

What does the grilled shishamo fish taste like?

Inside the small body is full of yellow fish eggs, they have no distinct flavor (I think) and just enjoy the texture, and the head and tail are crunchy and have charcoal flavor.

It goes well with most popular Japanese Izakaya drinks such as “High ball”, “Shochu”, and “Sake”.


Don’t be scared to know the Japanese delicacy…

Totally, understandable.

Shiokara doesn’t look like so much fun, right?


This delicacy is called “SHIOKARA”, which is…

are you ready to know about it?

SHIOKARA is made of sliced or chopped squid or other seafood, but, it is not sashimi, it is a fermented food.

The raw squid or other seafood is sliced up and mixed with their viscera-simply say, guts, then salted and fermented.

The fishy smell disappears during the fermentation process, ( which I doubt, ) and a rich, unique aroma and umami bomb are created.

The unique deep flavor is created by being decomposed into amino acids and fermented process.

To the Japanese, it is the common appetizer with Sake and other Izakaya drinks, and also we often enjoy it topped with rice.

What SHIOKARA taste like is salty, definitely funky, maybe sweet, and fishy.

Rich and creamy and that’s why it goes well with Sake, Shochu, and Scotch whiskey.


“TAKO” or “TAKOWASABI” is a chopped raw octopus mixed with wasabi sauce made of soy sauce, sake, mirin, dashi, and other condiments.

It looks like a slimy texture, but, it is actually crunchy.

Not so hard to challenge compared with SHIOKARA despite it looks similar.

The perfect combination of the crunchy texture of the octopus and the savory spicy wasabi sauce.

It’s a popular appetizer since it not only goes well with Izakaya drinks but also has low-calorie and good sauce of protein.

It is an adult nibble to enjoy tasting the alcohol, especially Sake.

You can make TAKOWASA made with boiled octopus.

Chop up the boiled octopus and make easy wasabi sauce.

  1. Combine wasabi paste with soy sauce
  2. Combine wasabi paste with ponzu sauce

Mix chopped boiled octopus and wasabi sauce well. Add minced shio mint or basil if desired.

Umibudo Sea Grapes

Let’s do the easy one as a break.

“Umibudou” is a type of seaweed that can be found only in Okinawa and the Philippines, which has tiny bubbles or capsules on stems and looks like grapes. So, Umibudo literally means “sea grapes” in Japanese.

Trust me, it is nothing taste- I mean, no fishy, seaweedy flavor, and you’ll be obsessed with its “popping and crunchy” texture.

“Umibudo” is harvested in the limited season, besides, they hardly last long, and sometimes they are called “green caviar” as respect.

Try and enjoy “Umibudo” when you find them on the menu in Japan.


“Eihire” is a grilled dried stingray fin.

The nutrition values are very similar to shark fin and rich in collagen, which is what you want to know.

It is chewy, and salty, but sweet, and served with mayonnaise topped with Japanese shichimi chili peppers.

It is definitely quirky food but not so challenging, and also well-known as a low-calorie food.

By the way, dried squid called “Surume” or “Atarime” is very similar to Eihire, these are also popular snacks with Sake or Izakaya drinks, dipping with mayonnaise.

You have already the worldwide information- Japanese mayonnaise is the best! When traveling to Japan, you’ll definitely find out the Japanese are obsessed with domestic Mayonnaise.

Japanese mayo is much more than a national typical condiment.

Some Mayonnaise lovers called “Mayolaah” (マヨラー) in Japan, those who dip/ drizzle Japanese Mayo for everything.


HIRE means fin in Japanese, and Hirezake is the serving style of Japanese sake in which charred fish fin (commonly tail fin) is soaked in hot sake.

Even to me, the challenge of HIREZAKE had been away and had no clue what the sake-infused fish fins-taste like.

Finally, I tried it the last time I went to back to Japan, and actually, the hot sake with grilled fish fin was savory and delicious, and it was like fish soup.



Kotsuzake is one of the traditional ways to enjoy hot sake more in the unique method which is infusing the flavor of the toasted or grilled fish/ dried fish/ bones in the hot Sake.

Commonly, In Japan, use whole river fish such as iwana mountain trout, ayu sweet fish, but, you can substitute with light-flavored white fish to make Kotsuzake.

What does KOTSUZAKE taste like?

Find out more in this post!

Become A Sake Connoisseur: KOTSUZAKE 101


“Basashi” is horse meat sashimi literally made with raw horse meat.

Often in Japan, horse meat is called sakura or sakura-niku, since it has pink color. *sakura means “cherry blossom”.

The most famous serving way is as a sashimi dish that thinly sliced horse meat dipped in soy sauce topped with fresh ginger, fresh onions, and fresh garlic.

The most famous place for “Ba Sashi” is Kumamoto Prefecture, on Kyushu island, but you can find it almost anywhere in popular cities in Japan.

This unique Japanese delicacy, horse meat, I surprisingly got frozen horse meat in the local grocery store, in GIFU, Japan.

The taste was not so shocking, I mean, it was not gamey, not a habit, and was like eating fish sashimi.

Nannkotu: Chicken Cartliage

Basically, the Japanese (or can be Asian) like eating cartilage, I guess.

My hubby who is an American always gives me a weird look when I enjoy the crunchy but savory fatty flavor while chewing bones.

Deep-fried chicken cartilage called “Nankotsu Karaage” is literally deep-fried chicken cartilage.

This pop chicken cartilage is crunchy and tasty and goes well with draft beer! (I am thirsty!)

Izakaya At Home! Japanese Staple Chicken Gizzards “SUNAGIMO” Nibbles Recipes

Speaking of Asian favorites, we like chicken gizzards as well.

They are also popular Izakaya appetizers, deep-fried, sauteed, and grilled.

My top 3 chicken gizzards finger food recipes for Home Izakaya in this post.

  • Sauteed Chicken Gizzards With Lemon pepper
  • Butter-Sauteed Chicken GIzaards
  • Karaage Chicken Gizzards

MotsuNabe: Japanese HOT POT DISH with Guts

“Motsunabe” is a type of Japanese hot pot dish, especially famous in Fukuoka.

The Japanese word “motsu” refers to the offal or internal organs of beef and pork.

Motsu is a popular food in Japan since it is not only tasty, and healthy but is also reasonable with hot pot “nabe” dish or Japanese “yakiniku” grilling.

The offal is stewed with vegetables such as cabbage, Chinese leek, and sliced garlic.

This delicacy is the specialty in Hakata, Fukuoka, in Japan, and many visitors enjoy melt-in-your-mouth MOTSU and soy-sauce-based savory soup.

What’s a Japanese Hot Pot Dish Called “NABE”

Nabe is already the popular Japanese food term to describe Japanese hot pot dishes called NABEMONO and hot pot cookware.

Nabe, Nabemono is commonly known as a representative comfort winter dish in Japan and there are so many recipes from regional to family recipes.

The most exciting feature of the Japanese hot pot dish is that it is served on the table on a portable cooktop to enjoy it at the table.

A hot pot dish is served and simmered with different ingredients at the same time in one pot with a rich and tasty soup.

Japanese Hot Pot Recipe: Chicken Ball Nabe

This Chicken ball nabe, which my family calls it TORIDANGO NABE, is my mom’s specialty and cozy, healthy, savory winter food.

Making TORIDANGO is super-easy to make, minced onions give sweet flavor and you can’t miss adding ginger to a delicious hint in the ball and soup.


This unique local delicacy is called “KEICHAN”, the specialty for Gifu Prefecture, my home prefecture in Japan.

“Kei” of KEICHAN refers to chicken.
Therefore, keichan is stir-fried chicken marinated in MISO-based or soy sauce-based sauce.

The easy version is made of chicken thighs, and, for those who like more uniqueness, sorry, again, chicken innards, guts, and even more, are often added to the dish.

The Keichan dish in the photo is my mom cooked at home that my brother brought back from the HIDA region, in GIFU.

Strong miso flavor and savory chicken went to well with whiskey high-ball, Shochu high-ball, and cold beer!

Ankimo: Monkfish Liver

Monkfish liver, another Japanese delicacy. (But, we eat chicken, beef, and duck livers, what’s the difference? lol)

It is called “Ankimo in Japanese.

So the monkfish liver is called “Foie gras of the sea” in Japan, the taste is RICH, BUTTERY, and CREAMY.

The common dish of “An kimo” is sliced after steamed and chilled with the dipping sauce is generally ponzu and Momiji-oroshi.

*ponzu…The Japanese citrus-based condiment.
*Momiji-oroshi…It is grated daikon radish and red chili peppers. Momiji is a Japanese maple tree, and it refers to “Momiji-oroshi” because of its color.

Shirako: Sperm Sacs Of Fish

Creamy, plumpy, and filled with sperm, shirako is the top delicacy that you may want to try while traveling in Japan.

These sperm sacs of fish like Pufferfish, salmon, cod, monkfish, and squid, (also called milt) are a precious delicacy in the season, yet, some people really like it and others don’t care much.

Creamy and plumpy milt has a variety of recipes such as tempura, grill, hot pot dishes, and Japanese clear soup.

Honestly, of all the delicacies I’m talking about today, this is the only one I don’t want to eat if I can.

I just don’t like the texture and flavor such as rich creamy, buttery, and plumpy in my mouth.

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