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    Ikameshi (いかめし)

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    Aside from beef, squid is another crowd favorite in Japan. In fact, squid is the main star of a local food in Hokkaido. The food’s name is Ikameshi “いかめし”.

    If you love squid cuisine, then continue to read on.

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    Origin of Ikameshi

    Just like other traditional food, it also has a long history. There are two claims of how and when Ikameshi started.

    Is Ikameshi an Ekiben?

    Some people believe that it is originally an Ekiben “駅弁”. So, what is an Ekiben?

    Ekiben comes from the words “eki” which means train and “bento” which is a Japanese lunch box. Technically, Ekiben is a Japanese lunch box meal that can be bought in train stations. It usually comes with disposable chopsticks and the containers used also vary.

    Ekiben is cheap and easy to buy that’s why many train commuters love the idea. Another great thing about it is that the travelers can actually eat it while riding the shinkansen.

    During World War II, Ikameshi was first served as an Ekiben back in 1941. The first station that served it was Mori Station of the Hakodate Main Line.

    At this time, locals were thinking of ways to conserve rice. A rice shortage back then forced people to save as much rice as they can. Of course, we all know that rice is a staple food in Japan. They thought that if they stuff rice inside the squid, they can somehow save rice. In addition to that, Hokkaido is producing squid in high quantity during this period. Besides, it is easy to prepare and it sells out fast too!

    Hakodate Station

    Long History of Ikameshi

    Unlike the previous claim, this theory says that Ikameshi actually originated in Oshima Region. As a matter of fact, many thinks that this local food was created during ancient times.

    In the coastal area of Hokkaido, locals stuffed white rice and potatoes inside the squid’s body. They would first simmer the rice and potatoes in soy sauce.

    However, it is only during after stores in train stations start selling Ikameshi that it became popular. People claim that when they think about this dish, they start to feel hungry. Another notable difference about these two claims is that Ikameshi in Mori Station uses glutinous rice. It is sticky therefore making it firmer when you cut the squid into pieces.

    What are the Health Benefits of Eating Squid?

    Ikameshi’s main star is squid. Many might ask if it has health benefits. Yes, eating squid is definitely healthy.

    Protein

    Ikameshi is a good source of protein since squid contains high-quality protein. This macronutrient enhances metabolism. In addition to this, protein supplies amino acids for cell growth and restoration.

    Cholesterol

    Are you on a watch for cholesterol intake? Fret no more! Just like other shellfish, squid is rich in dietary cholesterol. In fact, studies say that consuming squid can lower blood cholesterol level.

    Vitamins

    Squid is an excellent source of vitamins! It has B12 that is great for blood health and B6 to prevent stroke. It also contains vitamin D for balanced intake of vitamins.

    Preparation

    The preparation of Ikameshi is surprisingly easy! That is another reason why many shops started selling this meal. Besides, the taste of the squid always stands out. Continue reading and who knows? You might be able to prepare this rice dish on your own.

    preparing the squid
    STEP
    Remove the head and legs of the squid.

    Second, set aside the legs. Clean the body by taking out the internal organs.

    STEP
    Wash the glutinous rice (もち米).

    Soak it in water for an hour. Then, drain all excess water and put it aside.

    STEP
    Prepare the soup by combining soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar.
    STEP
    Stuff glutinous rice up to about 3/4 of the squid.

    Next, squeeze it in tightly to make sure the rice will not fall out.

    STEP
    Secure the rice with a bamboo skewer.

    Give it a little shake, pushing the rice downwards.

    STEP
    Place the squid in the pot with sauce mixture while it is still cold.

    Make sure the squid is drenching in sauce mixture.

    STEP
    Keep it simmering for thirty minutes (30 minutes).

    Don’t forget to flip the squid over occasionally.

    STEP
    Toss the tentacles halfway and reduce the amount of sauce in the pan.
    STEP
    Baste the squid and turn off the heat after ten minutes (10 minutes).
    STEP
    Cut the squid into bite-size slices and drizzle a little sauce on top.

    Voila! Your Ikameshi is now ready!

    When to Enjoy this Squid Dish?

    ikameshi

    The best thing about Ikameshi? You can enjoy it all-year round. Regardless of the current season, you can always find a shop that sells this local food in Hokkaido. Honestly, you can find this anywhere!

    Furthermore, you can simply create this at home. Preparation is easy and ingredients are available in local supermarkets.

    Apart from this, the popularity of Ikameshi is evident. Local Ebiken fairs include this rice dish in their exhibits. Other fairs in other parts of the country also start adding this.

    Where to Eat Ikameshi?

    Nowadays, many shops sell Ikameshi. It is still highly advisable to purchase the meal in train stations in Hokkaido to feel the authenticity. But wherever you are in the area, you can absolutely find a shop that offers this traditional food. See below list for some of the famous shops to get this local food.

    Ikameshi of Abe Shoten

    ikameshi abe shoten

    Where to get the best Ikameshi? Of course, from the original shop that sells the dish. Ikameshi of Abe Shoten. The shop is in Hakodate Station so make sure to drop by when you are within the vicinity.

    Ikameshi of Abe Shoten is actually more expensive than the other ones sold in Hakodate. In fact, other shops actually sell it for almost half of the price from the original one. However, tasting the original one is more satisfying.

    Yamatoku Ikameshi

    Yamatoku Ikameshi is famous for its soft squid offering. The company boasts a special method of cooking Ikameshi to make it softer and chewier. Price of Ikameshi starts at 400 yen per bag.

    yamatoku ikameshi

    Kakuman No Ikameshi

    The company Ikameshi Co., Ltd., is a known manufacturer of processed seafoods in Hakodate area. Kakuman No Ikameshi sells it in bundles of four for about 2000 yen.

    Kakuman No Ikameshi

    Narusao

    This product is famous for its Ikameshi that has the flavor of sea urchin and scallops. These ingredients are luxurious and rich in flavor. Some stalls also sell this in Hakodate Morning Market.

    narusao ikameshi

    Nihombashi Ika Center

    The place is a favorite among locals for their squid menu. Aside from squid ring and squid sashimi, Nihombashi Ika Center is also famous for their Ikameshi. You don’t have to go all the way to Hakodate to have a taste of stuffed squid. Moreover, their seafood dishes are all fresh from Kanagawa and Chiba.

    Address: 〒103-0023 Tokyo, Chuo City, Nihonbashihoncho, 3 Chome−1−11 B1F ビル 繊維会館
    Contact Number: 050-5487-1496

    nihombashi ika center

    Epilogue

    Ikameshi “いかめし” is another traditional food in Hokkaido Prefecture. Just like Jingisukan, this dish has become widely popular over the years. Imagine eating two of your favorites in one dish — squid and rice. These two are a perfect combination of flavor and tradition.

    It is best to eat Ikameshi as it is. Even if you’re in a hurry, you can just grab a pack of it and enjoy the food right away. Since you can buy this in train stations, you can consume it while traveling. There is no limit as to when and where you can enjoy this amazing delicacy.

    Don’t forget to share this to your friends who love squid!

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