How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style

How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Itadakimono (a gift humbly received): Squid
Yesterday morning I had a chance to go to the Kyoto Central Wholesale Food Market with the Iron Chef defeater Yoshimi Tanigawa, the owner of Kichisen. (also known as Kisen). Kichisen is among the best of the best for Kyoto Kaiseki cuisine. Mr Tanigawa gave me several of the squid that he bought and told me to make shiokara with it. Shiokara is a side dish not for the faint hearted that combines sliced squid body and legs with some squid entrails and is pickled in salt.

To make shiokara, the squid first must be cleaned. But how do you clean a squid? Well, it is not that difficult and requires little technique. It does involve getting your hands dirty.

Cleaning Squid: the Squid
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

The Main Steps of Cleaning a Squid

1. Separate the legs and entrails out from the body by gently pulling the legs away from the body.
2. Remove the ‘cuttlebone’, the transparent cartilage spine of the squid by gently pulling.
3. Clean out remaining tissue, innards and so on from body (split body if not making rings).
4. Peel away spotted brown outer membrane from the body.
5. Cut the legs away from the ‘head’ from the entrails.
6. Remove orangish-brown gland from guts for shiokara (if you are brave).
7. Wash body and legs thoroughly.

The squid body can be stuffed, sliced into rings or split and sliced into strips. For shiokara, you want to split it down the middle, wash well and slice into strips. The legs can also be used for shiokara but removing the tentacles and and skin membrane requires some technique. The legs with skin attached can be used for other dishes.

Be sure to check out our shiokara series:
How to Clean Squid (this article)
How to Make Shiokara
How to Eat Shiokara

Cleaning Squid: To Start, Just Pull
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)
Gently pull the legs away from the body. No cutting should be required, but you can use your finger to tear the connective membrane if need be. The orangish-brown part is the digestive gland, something like an intestine. It is called kimo, or liver in Japanese, but properly it is not a liver. This gland is essential for making shiokara.

Cleaning Squid: Removing the Guts
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid: Guts and Digestive Gland Removed
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid: Eggs and Ink
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)
Attaached to the head arethree mains parts; the egg sac (left, white), ink sac (middle, blackish) and digestive gland (right, orangish-brown). Be careful not to break the ink sac as you will have quite a mess. Squid ink easily washes away with water though.

Cleaning Squid: Removing the Cuttlebone
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid: Removing the Cuttlebone
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid: Split and Remove Remaining Viscera
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)
If you want to cut into rings, just wash out the body thoroughly with running water.

Cleaning Squid: Split and Remove Remaining Viscera
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid: Peeling Away the Skin
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)
A quick slice with the knife will make it easier to ‘get an edge’ on the skin to peel away. For cooking preparations using high heat such as deep frying, this step may be skipped.

Cleaning Squid: Peeling Away the Skin
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid: Peeling Away the Skin
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid: Done!
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Cleaning Squid for Shiokawa: Digestive Gland
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)
Simply cut away the base of the digestive gland from the head.

Cleaning Squid for Shiokawa: Digestive Gland
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)
If you are making shiokara, remove this dark strip of viscera that is attached to the digestive gland

Snapshots from Kichisen Kitchen
Kichisen is not your garden variety ‘best of the best’ restaurant. Mr. Tanigawa runs a ‘dojo’ training school with Marine bootcamp level severity for aspiring Kyoto cuisine chefs. Here are a few survivors. They are not students or kitchen staff, but disciples.

Pro Squid Cleaning
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Pro Squid Cleaning
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Pro Squid Cleaning
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

Pro Squid Cleaning
How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style (いかの開き方)

11 Responses to “How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style”

  1. dagitablog says:

    We have similar way of cleaning an “ika”. Nicely done and well-explained!

    Were those the hands of a pro?

  2. hblnk says:

    Yes, yes, just what I needed.
    I love your website: knowledge and encouregament in equal proportion.

  3. [...] « How to Clean a Squid Japanese Style  Print This Post  Email This [...]

  4. Arun says:

    Oh, that’s a ceramic knife, right? I’m considering in getting a new one since my current one is getting a bit blunt. Are they better than steel knives?

  5. Peko-P says:

    Hello Arun,

    Yes, that is a ceramic knife from Kyocera. I like them, but some gourmets don’t. I don’t know that they are better than steel, but one thing that can be said for them is that they never rust. High quality knives in Japan are prone to rust. Honestly, I think I use the Kyocera knife because it looks cool. In terms of use, I don’t find much difference from a steel knife. How’s that?

  6. Wow that is some seriously fresh squid!

  7. sunil baindur says:

    Very well documented.We clean it the similar way except that its cut in rings and only the tentacles are eaten not the eyes and head.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Sunil Baindur

  8. Jim Long says:

    Thank you. Both the photos & text are very helpful. I just bought some (much smaller) squid from a waterfront fish market in New England and will now begin to clean them.

  9. Gavin says:

    Thanks! I love the information and would truly appreciate more recipies/suggestions for squid/cuddlefish. It is one of the things that we can get here easily in the west (Alabama, USA) and doesn’t suffer too badly from freezing. (Fresh would be better of course but we do the best with what we have.)

    I don’t know if it is okay for me to reply to another commentor but:
    Arun, from what I have heard there are pro’s and con’s for both ceramic and steel.
    Ceramic:
    Pro: Sharp as a devil’s tongue. Keeps that edge for much much longer than even the best steel. It is harder than steel and lighter too. And (as mentioned above) can’t rust and are dishwasher safe (I think). Non-conductive.

    Con:Harder and more brittle meaning You Drop it, You Chip it. But it isn’t so bad, small drops and small chips do not a useless knife make. Harder also means that you can’t sharpen it with standard stones so once it is dull it is dull. Oh, and because it is lighter it is more difficult to “feel” where the blade is (But this is just a person observation)
    Steel:
    Pro: Normally cheaper and easier to find. If it is dull, you can just sharpen it again (5 min work max if done right).* Sturdier in the long run. More of a heft to it so you can more easily split heavier bones or such. (Can be used as a can opener in a pinch{only do this when you know how or you could severly hurt yourself or your knife}).
    Con: Dull faster. If not taken care of (salt exposure or ran through a washing machine) could rust easily. Heavier. Conductive.

    *The main difference (In my opinion) between good steel and bad steel is the duration that it holds an edge. Personally, I think it is more of hard steel and soft steel. Hard steel’s edge lasts longer but is more difficult to sharpen. Where-as soft steel loses its edge faster but is easier to resharpen.

    In the end it comes down to personal preference really. Major difference is the care required. If you keep your knives oiled, hone them before every use, and sharpen them once a year then your steel knives will stay sharp for a decade. If you don’t wanna deal with that then get a ceramic knife for 5 years or until something happends to it.

    Hope that helps!

  10. Pranith says:

    Hi
    Thanks for the very detailed description of the squid cleaning.
    tons of thanks,

    Regards
    Pranith

  11. Bim says:

    I went to Biliingsgate market this morning and i bought a box of fresh squids – the only problem was that I had no idea as to how to clean them – so i had to deeb-freeze half of my squids with the head, tentacles and all, but i managed to clean the other half….the description on this web page is fantastic and very useful. I will have to go cleaning right now….no, actually – I will do it tomorrow. Thanks

Leave a Reply

ContactCopyright © Kyoto Foodie: Where and what to eat in Kyoto, All Rights Reserved.