Children of the Clouds – And Other Wonders

March 1, 2017

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Fresh sea cucumber.  Hairy crab. Cod sperm. Huge live shrimp, legs wiggling. Marinated mackerel. Fresh bamboo shoots…

Yesterday I had a truly memorable meal at the venerable Kiriko in L.A.  It’s the kind of meal I wish I could go back and have again today. And I would – if I weren’t on my way to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival.

The Japanese call shirako – which is milt, or the sperm sac of the male cod- “children of the clouds” a euphemism that always thrills me.  The substance itself also thrills me.  It has an extraordinary texture – pillow soft, tender, almost liquid but yet not – and a rich, gentle taste.  That’s it in the bowl above, lightly poached.

Kiriko also sets it on sheets of kelp and grills it.  The result is a kind of savory marshmallow; utterly irresistible.

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But everything we ate was memorable, from this fresh hairy crab

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to these crisp, slightly crunch slices of lotus root

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and these firefly squid – no bigger than a fingernail but packing big flavor.

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I love the giant shrimp, the flesh translucent, the flavor clean, bracing and yet sweet…

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And it’s head, fried, all crackling tentacle and soft fat

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Fresh sea cucumber is quite a change if you’re accustomed to the dried version served in Chinese restaurants.  This has the most astonishing texture, simultaneously soft and chewy.  (It’s all texture, very little taste.)

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And if you’re a lover of saba – Japanese mackerel – don’t miss Kiriko’s version.

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We had some traditional sushi as well.  Wonderful uni.  And this sparkling kohada, all shiny silver scales and deep, full flavor.

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To finish up?  You might opt for the traditional tamago.  As for me, please give me a handroll with cucumber, shiso and umeboshi.  The perfect finale to a pretty perfect meal.

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2 Comments

  • Leslie in Oregon says:

    Your descriptions are almost as wonderful as the tastes they describe!

  • Summer says:

    Nope, no way I could eat shirako. I’m gagging just thinking about it. The kohada and uni look amazing though!

    I must tell you how much I love your books and blog. You are an immensely talented writer and your books have had me in alternately hysterics and tears. Thank you for sharing your life experiences with your readers.

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