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The taste of pickled starfish
marcus 2013
ffutures wrote in little_details
Wikipedia says that pickled starfish are a Japanese delicacy - I'm hoping that this is actually true, but I haven't been able to confirm it.

For one of my stories I need to know what they are like to eat, in terms of taste, texture, etc. I've tried searching on this with phrases such as "Pickled starfish" "taste of starfish" etc. but I keep finding entries related to starfish peppers, a restaurant named Starfish, etc.

Unfortunately it really does need to be starfish, no other seafood works for this story, and since I tend to have seafood allergies I can't try it myself - even assuming that I could find them in the UK, which seems a little unlikely.

I'm assuming that they're a bit like squid, e.g. rubbery, but maybe more crunchy, and taste mostly of whatever they are pickled in, but I have no idea what that would be. Can anyone help with a better description?

If anyone wants to know what this is about I've put the explanation below the cut, because it will be a spoiler for the story.


The character is under mental attack from an intelligent starfish (if you read silver age Justice League comics you will know who I mean) and uses the memory to repel the attack.


Later - it looks like this is primarily a Chinese thing, not Japanese, they're sold as street food in parts of China, along the lines of raw sea urchin. It really doesn't sound very nice, but fortunately that doesn't matter for this story,

See http://www.chinesestreetfood.com/2012/07/starfish.html

and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMArccJbqxs

Are there any Asian food markets where you liv e - even if they don't have them they may be able to describe the taste better.

Nothing local - there are undoubtedly lots in Soho etc. but it'll be a few days before I can get over there.

they do often they cook first in salted water and then batter and fry but you need to know what kind of starfish there are expercts

salty, battered and fried is probably enough of a description - it's going to be a very short passage in the story. Many thanks!

I found this video of a man eating a star fish: http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g294212-i18635140-Beijing.html (It's less pickled and more deep fried, but it gives an idea of the crunchiness). The title suggests that it tastes like a brick and since starfish are mostly calcite I'd assume that's true...

I couldn't find anything about pickled starfish on Wikipedia and I'm wondering if you might've been reading about sea cucumbers, a relative of the starfish which is often pickled and served as a delicacy, or urchin roe, which comes from another starfish close-relative (which actually looks fairly star-fishy).

According to the English language wikipedia, "The Amakusa TV company markets an ebook called Cooking Starfish in Japan[128] and packets of dried starfish are sold in that country.[129]"

To me, a pickled food item is preserved in brine. Dried starfish... I assume that they are re-hydrated and then... I don't know. I found an English version of that cookbook, but it costs 9$

http://www.amakusa.tv/enewshito.html

There was a free quote on taste: "It was kind of hard--couldn't eat it," she says in her distinctive local dialect. "Once you boil it, though, it tastes like sea urchin."

...I'm wondering if you might've been reading about sea cucumbers...

I've had stewed sea cucumber (as part of something called an Eight-Treasure Seafood Hot Pot) and found it to be rather like roast beef gristle; I found it savory and delicious, but my brother was rather less impressed: "Bilge-flavored inner tube! Yum, yum!"

Just thought that the OP might find that quote a suitably impertinent retort to Starro.

You could try using the Japanese name for starfish in your search? I'm not sure how well that will work though. According to this link, there's a few common Japanese words used for describing/naming starfish.

Thanks - I've contacted the author of the article, maybe he can help!

I lived in Japan, and I never saw or heard of anyone eating a starfish, picked or otherwise.

In fact, Japanese wikipedia (that illustrious source) says:
体内にカドミウムや鉛などの重金属を多く含むこともあり、基本的に食用には適さない。(Because their bodies are filled with cadmium, lead, and other heavy metals, starfish are basically unfit for human consumption.) That said, it sounds like some places in Japan eat starfish roe in the spring as a delicacy, but this isn't common at all.

Perhaps it happens in Chinese cuisine?

According to the English language wikipedia, "The Amakusa TV company markets an ebook called Cooking Starfish in Japan[128] and packets of dried starfish are sold in that country.[129]"

Did you find this page already?

http://www.amakusa.tv/enewshito.html

The book you mentioned has an English-language ebook version.

Thanks! Someone on the blurb for that mentions that they taste like sea urchins, and I can find lots of descriptions of sea urchin sushi, that ought to be close enough.

According to this they taste terrible and are rubbery.

http://www.ask.com/question/can-you-eat-starfish

Thanks - I'm guessing any flavour comes from the pickle and whatever it's cooked in.

On the Amakusa site, it says "Once you boil it, though, it tastes like sea urchin." ... so I'd guess, if fried, starfish tastes like crunchy, deep-fried sea-urchin.

As Amakusa isn't on the Japanese mainland, not sure if it would be something normally seen in cuisine, though.

OK, I think that helps - from everything I've got I'll go with a strong flavour, crunchy, etc.

I have nothing useful to say , but "The taste of pickled starfish" should be the title of something. It has a nice ring to it. :D