What is Akagai?
As the name suggests, Akagai has a bright, reddish-orange body and mantle inside the shell (‘aka’ means red in Japanese). This is rare in marine products and it occurs because there is blood that contains hemoglobin in the body. Akagai lives buried in the shallow muddy floors of inner bays from Hokkaido to Kyushu, in waters about 10 meters deep.
What does Akagai taste like?
Larger-than-normal sizes with thick meat are of higher quality. It is important to keep alive without removing from the shell until just before preparing. Striking the meat on a cutting board right before making the sushi, gives the soft, still living meat a bit of a firmer texture. Inserting the Kazari boucho, to make the meat look like a butterfly, is not only for aesthetic appeal, it also makes the topping easier to eat. Also, when the Kazari boucho slits rise, it is proof that the piece is fresh. The mantle attached to the adductor muscle is also has a pleasant flavor and firm texture and many people like it even more than the meat. For both of these, dipping in vinegar directly before preparation prevents the odor that would otherwise be generated after preparation. On the other hand, at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the ark shell is served raw (without dipping in vinegar) in order to maintain the original flavor.
If you order Ark shell (akagai), you will hear the pleasing sound of the shellfish striking the cutting board, which tightens the flesh. The shellfish is sliced slowly open, as if a magnificent flower was blooming. Many ark shells used to be caught at Edomae, the bay of Tokyo before; the one from Kemigawa Chiba prefecture was highly valued. The sleek and vivid color of shell meat shows its freshness. Enjoy the rich flavor of the ocean and firm texture.
Also called Bloody clam or red clam. (Revision date: November 9, 2020)
Miyagi Aichi Setonaikai