Japanese sake is served many ways—from a bottle, a ceramic decanter, or a pot, complete with handle and spout—but only one vessel turns into a snack when you’re done drinking. That’s the ika tokkuri, made from a dried squid.
A tokkuri is a ceramic decanter; “ika tokkuri” simply means “squid decanter.” The process for making one is fairly simple, though it takes skill to get the shape right. After hollowing and cleaning the squid’s mantle (the large, conical part of its body), makers will leave it to dry in the sun with a string pulled tight around the top to form a neck. Sometimes they’ll fill the mantle with rice or air to maintain its vase shape, then stopper it until it has dried.
Whether ceramic or made from a squid, tokkuri are particularly well-suited for serving hot sake. With ika tokkuri, however, the permeability of the skin means the sake will also pick up a salty flavor. It’s not ideal for enjoying the pure taste of the sake, but is considered a special treat; some say it makes the sake taste smoother, too.
The squid itself softens with each use, and after six or so refills, it achieves a jerky-like texture. If you’ve had that many servings of sake, you probably ought to eat something, so go ahead. Rip off a piece and enjoy a salty, sake-infused taste of the sea.
Need to Know
Squid decanters, while traditional, were fading in popularity until 2010, when the town of Takahama, in the Fukui prefecture, founded “The Committee to Reinstate the Sake Bottle Squid.” If you're looking for ika tokkuri, Takahama is a good place to start.