Ikameshi is simmered squid filled with rice, which is a local speciality of Hokkaido, northern part of Japan. Ikameshi literally means squid rice. It is made by removing the tentacles and intestines from the squid, and filling the body of the squid with rinsed rice.
The whole squid filled with rice will be simmered in a special soy sauce based soup stock. The open side of the squid is often pierced with toothpicks, so the rice will not fall out. The rice used for ikameshi mixes glutinous rice and non-glutinous rice. Other ingredients often used are bamboo shoot, carrot, and aburaage which is fried tofu.
In 1941, during World War II, there was a shortage of rice, and people could not get rice easily. A lunch vendor in Hakodate city, Hokkaido, came up with the idea of using squid which was rich haul, and small portion of rice to create a new cuisine. In those days, rice was very precious, so the owner of the lunch vendor wanted to fill people’s tummy up using less rice than usual.
It is common in Japan that train stations sell lunch box to eat on trains. Ikameshi started to be sold as a lunch box at a local train station in Hokkaido, and became nationally popular when it was specially sold at a lunch box fair in a department store in Tokyo around 1966.
The taste of ikameshi is sweet and sour, and it goes well with alcohol especially Japanese sake. Ikameshi has not changed its taste for more than 70 years, and is not only loved by tourists, but also loved by the locals living in Hokkaido.