We are making small Ikameshi, simmered squids with sweet rice inside. The dish is famous for Ekiben, railway boxed meals, in Hokkaido prefecture. Ikameshi is delicious even when cold, and the cute round shape makes it more popular. When small squids are available, you should definitely try this recipe.
Let’s clean the squids. First, detach the mantle collar from the head. Hold the lower part of the eyes and gently pull on the fins.
Peel off the cuttle bone and remove it from the mantle.
The cuttle bone may have already broken so make sure to remove it completely.
Clean the inside of the mantle with a spoon, removing the internal organs.
Remove the internal organs by cutting it just below the eyes.
Scrape off the suckers and trim off the arms with a knife.
Finally, remove the sharp beak.
Repeat the process and clean the rest of the squids.
Let’s rinse the squids. Place all the mantles into a bowl of water and roughly wash. Rinse the inside of each mantle under running water and place them on a bamboo strainer to drain.
Place the arms into a new bowl of water, thoroughly rinse under running water and place on the strainer to drain.
This sweet rice has been rinsed and soaked in water for about one hour. Drain the sweet rice in a strainer and thoroughly remove the excess water with a kitchen towel.
Open the mantle collar and spoon the rice into it. Fill the mantle with the rice until it is 6 parts full. Be careful not to overfill it otherwise the rice will increase in volume while cooking, breaking the mantle.
Pierce the collar with a small skewer to close the mantle.
Repeat the process and you should end up with 8 pieces of Ikameshi in total.
Let’s cook Ikameshi. Combine the sake, sugar, soy sauce and water in a pot. Stir the mixture with a ladle and turn on the burner.
Gently press each Ikameshi, flattening them a little. This will improve their shape.
Quickly place each Ikameshi into the pot and place the arms alongside the edge. Be sure to drop in the Ikameshi when the water is still cold. This will help the rice cook slowly and avoid under-cooking it.
When it boils, thoroughly remove the foam with a mesh strainer.
This wooden drop-lid, called otoshi buta, will help the Ikameshi cook evenly. Simmer for about 30 minutes, cooking the sweet rice completely.
Remove the otoshi buta and reduce the broth. You may want to remove the dark film on the Ikameshi by scraping it off with the back of the ladle.
Ladle the broth over the Ikameshi and remove the foam and dark films. Continue to reduce the broth while occasionally ladling it over the Ikameshi.
When the broth is reduced as shown, turn off the burner.
Allow the Ikameshi to cool and they are ready to serve.
Let’s serve the Ikameshi. Remove the skewers.
Slice the Ikameshi into 4 pieces. For each cut, clean the knife with a dampened kitchen towel.
Place the sliced and unsliced Ikameshi onto a plate. Garnish with 2 sets of arms and pour the remaining broth onto them.
And now it’s done!
Make sure the Ikameshi are always covered with the broth for 30 minutes while simmering.
You can substitute aluminum foil or parchment paper with several 1.5 cm (0.6") holes for the otoshi buta, drop-lid. In that case, you should place some kind of weight on top, for example a small plate.
Soaking a wooden otoshi buta in water before use will avoid changing its color and absorbing odors.
You can also mix regular rice and sweet rice, or use only regular rice in this recipe.