We find what looks like an alien species at a fish market so of course we make sashimi out of it
Because the weirdest-looking fish make the tastiest sushi, in our experience!
There’s nothing like shopping at a fresh fish market to get your appetite stirring, and you know that when it comes to weird food, our reporters aren’t shy. That’s why, when our Japanese-language reporter Haruka Takagi spotted a strange-looking fish at her local fish market, she had to buy it. It was salmon pink and super long and thin, with a head that made up about a third of its body. With its strange proportions, it looked like something out of a sci-fi film.
▼ It was so long it required two bags to take home.
What does one do with such a fish? Why, make sashimi out of it, of course! And as it turned out, Haruka learned from the owner of the fish shop that this fish, called a yagara, or cornetfish in English, is actually a delicacy! It’s often used in dishes at high-class Japanese restaurants.
Apparently, cornetfish can grow up to two meters long (approximately 6.6 feet), so Haruka’s 60 centimeter-long (23.6 inch-long) cornetfish might have been a juvenile. When she put it in her sink at home, she was struck with how truly unusual it looked.
The first thing that drew her eye was the super long part of the face that actually looked like a bill. According to Haruka’s research, this part of the head is actually a popular ingredient in Chinese herbal medicine.
Since this bill-like appendage was so long, Haruka fully expected it to have an equally long and large mouth, but when she went to pry open its jaws…
She found that its mouth was ridiculously small!!
Fish experts know that you can basically tell the diet of a fish based on the shape of its mouth. Herbivorous fish generally have a flat mouth with teeth that make it easier to nibble off bits of seaweed, so Haruka guessed that cornetfish aren’t. A bit of research confirmed that they are, in fact, carnivores. They use their long mouth to suck up small fish hiding in seaweed patches. In other words, their tiny mouth and super long head probably act as a straw.
Even so, Haruka couldn’t help but think a slightly bigger mouth might be a little more useful.
▼ From this angle, it looks kind of like the alien from the Alien movies.
The fish also had a strange antenna-like appendage coming out of its tail, like the ones on the head of a shrimp. Though she looked, Haruka couldn’t find an answer for what it was for.
Regardless, Haruka had bought it to eat, so once she was done admiring how weird this fish looked, she began to cut it up. It took some finagling because the fish was longer than her cutting board. But in case you, too, want to try making your own cornetfish sashimi, here are the steps Haruka took.
1. Turn the fish on its back and cut at the borderline between the head and the torso.
2. There are two hard bones on either side of the head, so you have to cut between them.
3. Now flip it back onto its belly and cut through to the other side to remove the head. Because of those hard bones, it took some strength to get the knife through.
▼ Look at how long the head was!
4. Open the belly of the fish and remove its innards, then wash it. Haruka didn’t know at the time, but the fat nestled in here is supposedly great for soup. She was dismayed to learn that after she washed it all away, leaving her sink all oily afterward.
5. Filet the body into three pieces. For Haruka, this was super tricky, since the fish had stiffened into a u-shape. It might have been easier if she’d cut it into sections that actually fit on the cutting board.
6. Remove the bones in the belly. This was also pretty challenging because the belly was so long.
7. Remove the skin and cut the flesh into bite-size pieces…
And your cornetfish sashimi is ready!
Eaten with soy sauce and wasabi, it had a delightfully refreshing flavor, with a luxurious feel to it. If she had to compare it to another fish, she’d say it was close to sea bream, but the flesh was much firmer. The flavor also wasn’t tainted by a strong smell or any peculiarities. Frankly, Haruka was impressed that all she had to do to make it so delicious was simply harvest the flesh from the fish.
Cornetfish isn’t a particularly rare fish, but because of its large size, it’s a popular ingredient used at traditional Japanese restaurants, and as a result, it’s harder to find at fish markets. And because of the alien-like way it looks, not many people would probably try buying it, so you might not see it very often.
That’s why if you happen to find one at a fish market, get it! It only set Haruka back by 660 yen (US$5.76), though it might cost more depending on the shop. It shouldn’t be that hard to prepare if you don’t stubbornly try to keep it in its original shape while you filet it, as Haruka did. Don’t be afraid of its crazy looks! The weirdest-looking fish have so far been the tastiest, at least in Haruka’s experience!