So, I grew up in the middle of the United States (and sometimes along the East Coast) and salty snack foods were invariably cheese doodles, chips, or pretzels—or maybe peanuts or corn chips if you were somewhere fancy). This is why it was a huge revelation when my Korean-American friend introduced me to dried shredded squid—a favored bar food in Japan and Korea.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, dried shredded squid consists of squid which has been shredded, dried, and salted (although sometimes the dried cephalopod is actually cuttlefish). The flesh comes away in little strings which one then pops into ones mouth with mayonnaise or hot sauce (particularly at a bar or while drinking pre-dinner drinks like whiskey or beer). None of this sounds especially appealing—and indeed, at first glance, the salted dried squid does not inspire the casual snack enthusiast with much hope. Squid and cuttlefish dry to an unappealing color somewhere between bone, mummy, and woodear, while the aroma bears a faint hint of decaying estuaries (with perhaps a touch of Cthulhu).
Yet, when one actually eats the dried shredded squid, it goes through a wonderful metamorphosis: it is exactly the right combination of chewy, salty, and umami. In Japan, shredded dried squid is known as “atarime” and is considered a otsumami (a bar food) whereas in Korea it is regarded as a bar food or sometimes a banchan (a small side dish). Whatever the case, it is excellent as a before dinner snack (especially with a beer) and I heartily recommend it to everyone—even if you are a bit wary of eating dessicated sea creatures. Furthermore, the packaging tends to be very droll with all sorts of cute cartoon squids (as you can sea in some of these photos).