Quality is an important factor when it comes to consuming seafood, but sometimes the quality of fish has more to do with the way it’s handled than its type or where it comes from. This is where ikejime comes in – a traditional Japanese method of handling fish that ensures the meat’s quality. To witness a world-class example of ikejime, the Yardbird crew visited the largest live fish market in Japan during their trip to Hyogo last month. The market at the Akashi-Ura fishing port is in Akashi, a small city in Hyogo famous for octopus, and whose local fare includes all kinds of beautiful seafood.
There are two unique aspects of the Akashi-Ura fishing port and market. First, it has a midday fish auction. Those who have hauled themselves to Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish auction at the crack of dawn understand that these auctions usually take place very early in the morning. Akashi-Ura’s lively auction starts at 11:30am and the auctioned fish can be enjoyed for lunch at nearby restaurants.
Second, Akashi-Ura gives the best possible treatment to their fish, with a level of care that few places in the world give when dealing with seafood. They unload the fish into dark tanks to calm them down from the stress of travel and maintain pools with running water 24/7. It is this level of care from Akashi-Ura matched with the ikejime method that make the area’s seafood top-notch.
The Ikejime Method
The ikejime method essentially paralyzes fish, preventing them from struggling or experiencing early rigor mortis, which ensures the freshest, tastiest fish possible. There are three main steps:
First, the fish is stabbed through the brain to induce brain death instantly.
After the fish is brain dead, it is cut from the gills along the spine and soaked with water to remove the blood.
A wire is run along the fish’s spinal column to destroy its spinal nerves, delaying the signals from the brain that the fish has died.
While this technique was developed in Japan, it has been adopted around the world and can be used on many different kinds of seafood.