Mar 3, 2017

I Ate Crab Brains

I ate crab brains.


A promise I made comes back to haunt me far too often – this year I will eat more traditional Japanese foods.

Enkais are work dinner parties held in Japanese pubs or restaurants usually after key events. An opportunity for staff to drink and relax together, celebrating the success of an event or hard work, everyone indulges in gourmet food and alcohol. These are very popular events.

So crab brains… What do they taste like? How about we take a look at the whole menu first. I've tried to include the Japanese names for the dishes as best I can. A colleague told me about each dish as we ate them. Well, as she ate them, and ate mine too.

Keep in mind that I received a ‘special’ version of the menu in that they boiled all of my food so that it wasn’t raw. Mmm plain boiled seafood, my absolute fave… The thought was endearing though.

Place setting upon arrival.

Seafood egg custard. Wobble wobble. I've had other versions of this sevred in small dishes and called 'chawan mushi'. Some of them are nice, I've learnt to try them.

Crab, squid, and bean curd. All the other diners received sashimi, but my serving was boiled. Mmm chewy.

It just kept getting better and better! Snap! Render the head from the body. Slowly, glide the poop shoot out. If I wanted to clean and shell my food, wouldn’t I have cooked dinner at home? The stuffed shell is a very popular dish in Imabari near the sea here, called ‘sazae tsuboyaki’. Go on, dig on into it with the twiggy stick provided.

Sorry, this dish deserves an extra photo. Look at the expressions on their faces haha – abject misery!

Substance! Biting into this fish felt like a solid, satisfying, mouthful. This is white fish and tofu served with negi (green onions). The flavour of this dish was delicious – yes I ate it. I enjoy cooked fish, it is the texture of raw foods that I struggle with. ‘Yakibidashi’ is grilled foods, served in cold ‘dashi’ which is a flavoursome broth. Cold dishes are often served in warmer weather.

Yum? I wouldn’t know, would I. How do you even eat this? It looks like a lot of work and I think my fingers would smell fishy… Please correct me if I’m missing the best dining experience ever.

Crunchy… Is it only me that thinks this looks like somewhat of a health hazard? I ate all the other tempura though. I adore tempura! This little guy is called ‘honesenbei‘ which roughly translates to ‘bone crackers’. According to my coworker it is a snack hugely popular with men because this dish compliments sake.

Of course the other diners had fish topping their sushi. The staff were so kind at this venue and used meat and bean curd to top mine instead.

Fruit is so expensive in Japan that yes, it classifies as a dessert even at a fancy restaurant. I must say it was very delicious fruit though. Serving it with small Japanese sweets was perfect.

Ok, crab brains. I want to throw up as I write this – sometimes it is not exclusively brain. It can be all the leftovers, a mishmash of the innards after the flesh has been removed.

Well… I thought it looked like baby poop and tasted like chalky green tea. When I voiced my opinion it nearly caused a riot and there were a whole lot of adamant ‘Stop calling it baby poop!’ demands thrown my way. Note to self, do not insult the delicacy. It was really powdery in texture and the flavour was not too strong. ‘Kanimiso’, literally ‘crab brains’ can only be eaten fresh and as such is a little rare. Served in the shell, kanimiso is usually accompanied with a small jug of sake. Pour the sake into the shell, mix with the crab brains and enjoy.

Don’t worry, I washed that muck down with some nihonshu. Mmm fruity. Apparently the bottle was slightly rare and had a price tag to match.

When I came home and told my husband, he said ‘I didn’t think crabs had brains… Don’t they just have a membrane sort of thing?’ That is either possibly the dumbest thing he has ever said to me, crabs are living things so they must have some kind of brain to function right? Or something got lost in translation at the dinner table and I have no idea what I ate. Wait, is it jellyfish that don’t have brains?

My husband knows me well though. When I got home he had two glorious bowls of cheese gyudon ready and waiting for me. Gyudon is rice, topped with simmered beef and onions in a Japanese sauce. There are many topping variations – cheese is my favourite!

Yes, two – have I mentioned that I eat a lot? Dessert was magical, he conjured up fudge brownies and donuts. Night salvaged.

Crab brain is probably the most unusual thing I have eaten. Now I am curious, what is yours?

{ Ashes }



Travel, university exchange, JET Programme, eikaiwa, and a baby in Japan! In my five years here, I feel as though I've collected a few experiences worth sharing.


  • Jackson

    on Mar 3

    Oh I absolutely love kanimiso (and all those other similarly strange food)!

  • edthethe

    on Mar 3

    So, I was a vegetarian from high school up until I got pregnant, however, if I am offered something I will at least try it. That said, during my vegetarian days, i consumed deer, whale, reindeer, jellyfish(gag! blah gross), bear!!(the person shot the bear themselves and made soup), buffalo(in the states) , turtle, horse, and dog meat(from china in a lovely decorated bag. it was jerky)