Tairagai (Japanese pen shell)
The amber-colored delight
“Tairagai” (Japanese pen shell) means “flat shells” from the way the shells actually look, also known as “tairagi”. The width of the shell is up to around 30 cm, which is big for edible bivalves. The adductor, found only one in each shell, is used for sushi, which makes tairagai one of the most precious sushi ingredients along with “awabi” (abalone) or “mirugai” (horse clam).
“The adductor looks like ‘hotate’ (scallop) but stronger taste and crispier texture. The color of adductor tells the quality of tairagai. The amber-colored have better, stronger taste than the white ones. Today we have tairagai from Mikawa in Aichi Prefecture and the color is looking good.”
The way Mr. Suzuki makes nigiri of tairagai is unique, putting tiny pieces of seaweed in between.
“Seaweed keeps tairagai from slipping in the hand when making nigiri sushi. Also, tairagai and seaweed together make an outstanding harmony of taste. The combination of chewy tairagai, seaweed, and ‘nikiri’ (sweet soy sauce) tastes like ‘isobeyaki’, grilled rice cake flavored with sweet soy sauce and wrapped in sea weed, one of the most popular traditional Japanese snacks.”