Firefly squid (Hotaru Ika/ホタルイカ) Edomae Sushi Recipe

Hotaru Ika being drained on a Japanese bamboo colander for sushi.

Firefly squid, or Watasenia scintillans, is a species of squid famous caught in Toyama Bay (富山湾) during the spring. Famous for its ability to glow in the dark, we serve it at the restaurant as a starting during the spring time, just before we transition to Edamame during the summer.

Available both fresh and pre-blanched, they arrive at our restaurant pre-blanched. This allows them to keep longer without going bad. If cooked any longer, their texture would become hard and chewy. Just before service, we quickly re-blanch the squid in dashi before cooling down. Once cooled, we then prepare the squid by removing the spine, eyes and beak, making them edible in one bite.

Salted Hotaru Ika (塩いか)
Salted Hotaru Ika (塩いか)

At the high of their season, biting into one of these squids is like biting into an egg yolk. The heads of the squids are extremely rich, with a taste very similar to Tomalley, or shrimp livers. Lower quality squid can sometimes be fishy but the higher quality ones are nice and plump, a perfect pairing for sake.

If baby firefly squid is available, it usually comes pre-salted in brine to preserve it’s texture. Another perfect starter before a meal, we sometimes serve it on its own, drained, or as a starter.

Preparation recipe for firefly squid:

After steaming in dashi for 5 minutes or blanching for 30 seconds, allow to cool to room temperature.

Start by using a tweezer to gently pull out the spine from underneath the body. Use a firm grip to pull it out slowly in one piece. Do not tug is, which may cause the spine to break. If the spine breaks when pulling, start from the very tip of the squid to pull it from a different direction.

Removing the gladius of a firefly squid for sushi.

It is flexible and should come out in one piece. The spine should look like this after removal:

The gladius removed from a firefly squid as part of sushi preparation.

After removing the spine, use the tweezers to pull out both eye balls and beak, which is two tough to eat:

The gladius, eyes and beak of a firefly squid removed for sushi preparation.

The squid can now be served as a starter or sake side.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *