One dear friend sometimes says, “Those Japanese – they’ll eat anything!” Although, we do eat a lot of (what Americans would call) strange food here, I have heard many Japanese people say, “Those Chinese – they’ll eat anything!” Everyone has a different perspective, don’t they?
Well, back on task: presenting a reason for my friend’s sentiment – eating crab. You maybe scratching your head now and thinking, “Eating crab is not so strange.” Indeed many Americans enjoy a nice Crab Louie or some boiled crab legs or some other delicacy; however, the crab consumption goes down a little differently here.
Photo number 1: A Crab. This variety is fairly common here and quite tasty; however, it is a little small which means more work getting at less meat. Most Japanese people are not deterred by this – sometimes even skipping over all but the largest leg sections – and the reason will become clear soon.
Photo number 2: A Crab with Egg Compartment Exposed. Crabs carry a tremendous number of eggs in a very small pocket on the bottom of their body. Turning the crab over reveals a lid with a tab, making it easier to open the crab than your average Tupperware. Significant numbers of Japanese people consider this something special to eat. Significant numbers means “not everybody”, much like the arguments in Norwegian families about whether Lutefisk is tasty or not.
Photo number 3: A Crab with Body Opened. Similarly simple is the process of opening the crab’s body. We call these contents kanimiso (蟹味噌) and most people consider this a delicacy. Some folks refer to this as ‘crab brains’ because the crabs head and body are the same thing. Actually, this is all of the organs necessary to run their body. There are two main consistencies to this material, either one being very easy to consume by spooning out from the shell.
Kanimiso is high in fat and protein giving it a rich flavor, plus it typically outweighs the meat in the legs. Along with ease of access, one can understand why the smaller leg sections might be ignored altogether. Would you eat these?