Skip to content

Notable Nosh: 鹵水墨魚

Cuttlefish 1

Today, we get to feature the curious specimen I recently found hanging at the Kowloon Market in Ottawa, a picture of which I included in the post announcing my safe arrival home. One of my readers made a tentative guess at what it might be (correctly, as it happens) but only baconbiscuit21 confidently identified it as a cuttlefish…

The sign hanging beside it in the store described it using the four Chinese characters in the title of today’s post. The last two of these identify the animal and are literally translated as ‘ink fish (pronounced ‘mòyú ‘ in Mandarin), while the first two characters, pronounced ‘lǔshuǐ’, refer to the very interesting Chinese cookery technique employed to cook the creature…

The individual cooking method characters mean ‘salt’ and ‘water’ respectively, but the compound word formed by the two of them together can be translated either as ‘brine’ or ‘marinade’. In common culinary parlance, however, it refers to a process whereby main ingredients get cooked in a rich medium that is often called a ‘master sauce’ in English.

A master sauce is based on a stock (sometimes chicken stock, sometimes just water) to which is added soy sauce, sugar, frequently rice wine, and a variety of different ingredients such as scallions, star anise, garlic, ginger, and the like. The whole idea is that as various ingredients are cooked they add their flavors to the liquid, which is then re-used so that the ‘master’ accumulates a layered depth of taste over time. It is said, and is quite possibly true, that some master sauces have been in existence for generations.

By the way… Jeff Smith (aka ‘the Frugal Gourmet’), a cookery book author who used to host a television cooking show many years ago before he passed away, always referred to this as a ‘looing sauce’ and made a joke of calling duck treated this way as ‘lewd duck’.

Cuttlefish 2

For those completely unfamiliar with this interesting marine animal, here is a picture of the live variety. As you can see, it looks like a rather ‘stubby’ squid with the additional feature of a swim fin that completely surrounds the body. I have seen these creatures only in pictures thus far, save for in small pieces, sliced after the speckled membrane was removed, and then frozen. The appearance of these, it may come as no surprise, is indistinguishable from squid flesh treated the same way.

Cuttlefish 3

Anyway, this picture, which looks disturbingly like some sort of alien porn, shows the underside of the cooked cuttlefish and the manner in which it was ‘cleaned’. The head portion that includes the eyes has also been removed and it was this fact, coupled with the turgid stiffness and bright orange color of the flesh, that startled and momentarily stumped me when I saw this one hanging in the store.

Cuttlefish 4

Here is a picture of the flesh after slicing in cross-section. As you can see, the master sauce (or ‘looing sauce’) if you prefer, has penetrated to a fair depth.

My wife and I tasted a piece of the cold meat right after slicing, and my wife’s first words were ‘I want more’. The cooked meat has a faint aroma that is a little like lobster and the texture is also a little similar. If you eat east-coast lobsters fairly often, then it will help you to imagine the texture as somewhere between the fleshy, fibrous part of the claw and the tougher meat in the pincers.

The taste of the meat is, again, like lobster, but quite a bit more delicate and not quite as sweet. I would rather eat a lobster tail if I had my ‘druthers, but, I think I would say the the flesh of the cooked cuttlefish is actually better than lobster claw meat… especially the rather tasteless pincer bits.

Cuttlefish 5

I saved the tentacles and fin to add to rice dishes sometime, and also froze a little of the fleshy mantle, or body, with a view to making a Thai style hot and sour soup, but I wanted to try a little bit of the meat immediately in something simple but hot. Accordingly, I briefly marinated some strips in a little mirin, sprinkled on a little pepper, and then dusted with some rice flour before sautéing it in a little oil.

The result, which I served with nothing other than a little soy sauce for dipping, was very tasty, although I do think that some of the sweet delicate flavors get lost a little when the flesh is hot. I don’t think it will happen anytime soon but I would love to lay my hands on a whole raw cuttlefish so that I can first taste it raw and then, secondly, clean and cook it myself from scratch. When that happily eventually transpires I will be sure to share the results of my investigation here at Sybaritica…

25 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love cuttle fish but I usually eat in a restaurant. However we live walking distance from the fish market in Aberdeen, HK so maybe I will keep my eyes open. Take care, BAM

    December 15, 2012
    • It’s not something I’ve ever seen on many restaurant menus but I very much like it too 🙂

      December 15, 2012
      • Then you should you put HK as one of your holiday destinations and visit the seafood restaurants here. So many options.

        December 15, 2012
  2. Well this is one item that I won’t find in the rural markets of New Hampshire.

    December 15, 2012
  3. Do you ever get octopus? I see those in stores ocasionally.. although not locally.

    December 15, 2012
  4. feochadan #

    From “the Wife”: This dish was totally AWESOME. The only disturbing part is that it looked like either something that would clutch onto your face and its acid eat through floors and floors of ship hull or a hand coming out of something’s butt – not totally sure which!

    December 15, 2012
    • So true. It totally looks like the face sucker from Alien!

      December 18, 2012
      • That’s what I thought when I saw it hanging in the store!

        December 18, 2012
      • My parents let me watch that when I was 9. That’s child abuse, right?


        December 18, 2012
  5. Another thing I’ve never tried – it looks a bit like calamari (which i’ve had in pubs) come to think of it might be a bit of a squid? Or is that cuttle fish

    December 15, 2012
  6. I remember a meal of cuttlefish at a restaurant in Hong Kong and it was off. Well I thought it was off. I couldn’t eat more than a few mouthfuls. Yours looks great.

    December 15, 2012
    • If you are a shellfish fan in general (lobster, scallops, etc.) then I would say that if it tasted ‘off’ then in it probably was…

      December 15, 2012
      • That’s what I was thinking at the time 🙂

        December 15, 2012
  7. I love how you always come up with such interesting original ingredients!

    December 16, 2012
  8. Hmmmm…..I’ve never seen red cuttlefish before! We eat a lot of it here in Spain, and we use the liver to flavor our seafood paella…’s called the melsa. Next time if you can get your hands on the liver (it’s a brown sack that is encapsulated inside) it makes a killer sauce!

    December 16, 2012
    • The red color comes from the cooking technique… I’ve never heard that about the liver before.

      December 16, 2012
      • Oh yeah, the liver is great!

        December 17, 2012
      • I haven’t heard of the liver either . . . hmmm . . . on the must-try list it goes!

        December 18, 2012
  9. YAY! Go me! Go me!

    Ironically, the first chapter of my dissertation was on a book whose title was translated (incorrectly in my opinion) as The Cuttlefish. I really think it should have been called The Squid, but we are mincing cephalopods now 😉

    Oh, I’m really punny tonight 😉

    December 18, 2012
    • Hmmm… minced squid? I’m hungry again.

      Actually, some Chinese dictionaries translate 墨魚 as either squid or cuttlefish even though 魷魚 is much more commonly used for squid on menus and in cookerybooks.

      December 18, 2012
      • Stuffed squid 🙂

        The author addresses the general confusion between squid and their ilk in the very first pages. Curiously, it seems that squid is the more common name for the cooked creature, regardless of what it was known as while living.

        December 18, 2012
      • What’s the Chinese for “alien face sucker”?


        December 18, 2012
      • squid, I think 🙂

        December 18, 2012
      • Haha!!!!!

        December 18, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Thai-Style Pineapple Fried Rice | Sybaritica

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Meet & Eats

The food that I've had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

Uncle Grumpy's Playroom

Current events, humor, science, religion, satire

Food Travel Lover

走过的地方 尝过的美食 留下的回忆

The Odd Pantry

Essays on food

Reputable Sources

Organizing ferments since 2013

that Other Cooking Blog

. food . photo . sous vide .


My Virtual Cookbook to Share My Love and Joy of Food and Cooking One Recipe at a Time

lola rugula

my journey of cooking, gardening, preserving and more

Yummy Lummy

I cook, photograph and eat food with the occasional restaurant review!

Eye Of the Beholder

A pair of eternally curious eyes and a camera...Life is beautiful.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living

Clayton's Kitchen

Big flavors and fun cooking from a cubbyhole kitchen

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design


Dentist chef, just a dentistry student who practice the dentist's cooking recipes in a dentist's kitchen

Mad Dog TV Dinners

Guess what's coming to dinner?


Real Food & Real Opinions

Bento Days

Making bentos for kids

Garden to Wok

Fresh and tasty!

Bam's Kitchen

Healthy World Cuisine

Trang Quynh

everyone is special in their own way :)

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season


If people say that life is too short to drink bad wine, it means also that life is too short to eat crappy food!

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

The Unorthodox Epicure

Confessions of an Aspiring Food Snob

The 好吃 Challenge

1 girl, 273 days, 100 recipes


a recipe sharing and bento blog


Just another site

The Food Nazi

Never try to eat more than you can lift

Expat Chef in Barcelona

From my kitchen to yours

Keeping Up With the Holsbys

a journey into my head and my pantry

Nurul's Culinary Adventures

I Love Food, the Universe and Everything!!


home-cooking recipes, restaurant reviews, International cuisine ,

Naked Vegan Cooking

Body-positive Vegan Goodness

Bites of Food History

Sharing my Experimental Archaeology of Food

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

Cooking, food, wine


A Journey About Food, Recipes And Destinations


Fresh, exciting and adventurous food journey

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

%d bloggers like this: