This “salamander” swims in a bowl of tasty broth with white tapioca “eggs”.

On a recent trip to the Kyoto Aquarium, our Japanese-language writer K. Masami had the chance to try out a rather interesting dish which the aquarium calls the “giant salamander dashi chazuke.” Chazuke, or ochazuke as it is also sometimes called, is a popular Japanese food made by pouring tea or broth over a bowl of rice with various seasonings, and dashi is a fish-and-kelp stock used in many Japanese dishes.

Hearing the name of this menu item, again  “giant salamander chazuke,” may cause some to pull a face at the thought of a bowl of food with an actual salamander in it, and while the idea isn’t entirely far-fetched, you can rest assured that this particular dish does not contain any actual salamander. The “salamander” you get in this bowl of chazuke is made from suguki pickles and nori seaweed inside a solidified salamander-shaped piece of gelatin. The smooth, shiny texture of the gelatin almost makes it look like the real thing!

The jelly salamander sits atop a grilled rice ball, surrounded by Kyoto-grown green onions, and white tapioca pearls which replicate the salamander’s eggs. It was so real-looking, Masami hesitated to eat it.

But hunger prevailed, and Masami poured the stock over the gelatin salamander, and the whole thing came together as the little edible amphibian lookalike took a swim in its dashi pond.

With a little guilt, our writer took a chunk out of the salamander with her spoon, scooped up a bit of rice, green onion, and tapioca pearls along with it, and took a bite. The fresh, crunchy texture of the green onions and suguki pickles was perfectly balanced by the soft, chewy texture of tapioca, and overall made a delicious combination.

Masami says that despite feeling that the amount of tapioca was a bit much, she quite enjoyed the salamander chazuke. If you’re up for the challenge, be sure to head to the Kyoto Aquarium soon. There are only a limited 20 servings per day, at 500 yen (US$4.39) per bowl, and there is no telling how long they will continue to offer this special menu item!

Restaurant information
Kyoto Aquarium / 京都水族館
Address: Kyoto-fu Kyoto-shi Shimogyo-ku Kankichiji-cho 35-1
Open: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

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