Saturday, August 14, 2010

Curiousity gets the Cuttlefish (411)

Fishing pier at San Antonio
Fishing pier in San Antonio on the Chilean coast, not far from Santiago

You have a choice in life or in travel. You can motor on on your own agenda, with your own invisible line drawing you closer to where you thought you wanted to go, or you can stop and observe. This deserves more introspection and navel-gazing than I want to go into right now, but some of you are like-minded, and know it already, or know like-minded people, like the illustrious and hilarious Audrey and Dan (or Mr. and Mrs. Scott, as you may call them if you'd like to see Dan's hackles raise just a bit).

It also helps if you're a bit of a chatterbox. And I am. I like to think I'm training to be an old lady, the kind that talks to you in the supermarket about how expensive the melons are, or about pretty much anything at all. But I'm not in training to be anything really, I'm already there. I will talk to pretty much anyone about pretty much anything at any time. In the United States that makes me quirky. In Chile, it makes me downright bizarre.

But the good news about doing something out of the ordinary (at least in Chile) is that people are quizzical, but not offended by your particular brand of crazy, and are often nicer than you might expect or hope, though you should always expect and hope the best. In this case, I think I get special dispensation for being female and foreign, but in general, whenever I have asked stupid questions of people here in Chile, they have been more than willing to tell me in detail about whatever it is I was wondering about. I think when you live in a world where everyone knows whatever it is you're doing, the chance to be an expert is appealing. Or maybe talking to a foreigner is an interesting tidbit for the day.

And so I give you, jibia (HIBB-ee-yuh). I have never seen jibia prepared anywhere, have only seen it as giant bleach-bright folded lobes of fish-flesh at the market. I was told it was "like a squid" (como un calamar) one time, but it certainly wasn't like any squid I'd ever beheld. (Not even the giant squid in Te Papa in Wellington, New Zealand, which to be fair, is decomposing more than a little at this point).

jibia heads!

By asking, I found out that what's in this man's hands, are not, in fact, octopi, as I had surmised, but jibia heads! Jibia heads, I tell you.

It turns out jibia is a species of cuttlefish, which by the way, I have seen a cuttlefish while scuba diving, and it was petite and looked like it was wearing a frilly skirt. And I can promise and swear that if I ever see one of these massive jobbers coming at me, I will render my rented wetsuit unwearable by its next renter.

jibia con su cuero

Fully clothed, with it's "cuero" (skin, or leather) still on.

more jibia, ready to go

De-cueroed. I asked the guy with the heads if the skin is hard to remove, and he said nope, it just slips off.

Jibia, ready for market

Ready for market.

So if I hadn't asked, I'd never have known. Next step, finding out what people actually do with the cuttlefish (i.e., how it's prepared), and continually being impressed at exactly how hard fishermen all over the world work, regardless of how easily the jibia heads and skin come off. (the heads they toss into the sea, which would explain the sea lion colony to some extent, photos forthcoming).

What did you find out today?


Annje said...

For some reason, the word "cuttlefish" makes it sound so cute and small, but those things are huge... render wetsuit unwearable, indeed! Cool photo-post.

Eileen said...

The one I saw live and in person was shorter than my forearm, and it locomotes by moving ia cool little frill around it's back half (thus the skirt talk), and when I've seen them dried in Asian food markets, they've also been small. These are frighteningly large. Any chance you can ask the hubs what people do with them? I've never seen them on the menu anywhere, and I don't think it's for bait, because they sell it in Stgo, too, and where are you going to fish here?

Thanks for commenting.

Margaret said...

I've had jibia a number of times, but never fixed it... and now for the life of me, I can't remember how it was prepared... just that I liked it well enough but was not enamored. I'm thinking a bit like tripe, which has that funky weird texture that I like when I'm in the right mood... I believe it's pretty cheap and you should be able to find it at your closest fair-sized grocery store or fish market...hint... if you want to do more research and report back to the rest of us!

Lillian said...

I love the Korean snack, dried cuttlefish. I'm pretty sure it's one of those things you have to grow up eating and that it's really disgusting, but I just love it.

Marmo said...

Here in the south, jibia is prepared by putting it in boiling water, without salt (jibia absorbs salt like a sponge). After the boiling, you have to remove a thin layer of skin that only comes out after being boiled, and then, you have it ready to make almost anything.
My mom said "anything that can use chicken, can use jibia, if you want to make something different" You can also use it as a replacement for loco in empanadas de marisco, or serve it with a salad and mayo, or cut it in little pieces and serve it fried with onions, and almost anything you may think.
Like Margaret says, it tastes fine, but I´m not in love yet with it.
I would however recomend Empanadas de marisco with some jibia in the mix, replacing loco.

Richard said...

Those are immense. For some reason, I can't get the idea of making a jibia leather handbag out of my head. Given how big they are, you would be able to store quite a lot in one. Except that everything would probably smell of fish, of course.

Does it taste anything like calamari if you grilled it?

Daniel Noll-Scott said...

This reminds me of being served Croatian cuttlefish in its own ink.

I suppose by the time jibia hits the plate, the ink (if there were any to begin with?) is long gone.

By the way, I found out that changing my name is easier than I thought.