The Common Sea Squirt or Sea Pineapple (Halocynthia roretzi), ‘Hoya’/海鞘 in Japanese, is this weird not-so-appetizing-looking seafood that we can find in Japanese supermarkets. For the biology-nerds among us, Hoya is an immobile filter feeder that lives on the ocean floor and feeds on Plankton. The sea pineapple is predominantly consumed in Korea, where it is known as Meongge (멍게), and to a lesser extent in Japan, where it is known as Hoya (ホヤ) or Maboya (マボヤ). In Japan, Hoya is cultivated mainly in Miyagi Prefecture, while naturally occurring Hoya are also found in the coastal areas of Iwate Prefecture.
Hoya is a divider of the people. Most who try Hoya for the first time will agree that it is somewhat of an acquired taste. But now that formal introductions are done, let’s talk about some innovative new recipes that might just change the minds of the most entrenched Hoya haters! Hoya can be eaten raw as sashimi, slightly boiled or even pickled. Below are some recipes influenced by my own cultural background of Algerian and French. But before that, let me pay tribute to the Japanese culture!
1. HOYA SALAD
Let’s begin with Hoya prepared in Japanese style: “Hoya Salad”. A simple yet tasty dish of Hoya sashimi (raw Hoya) on top of a bed of lettuce seasoned with a dressing of your choice. As the Mediterranean girl that I am, I recommend a simple seasoning with olive oil and lemon juice, with an option of pieces of Japanese lemon tossed in (I used Hokkaido lemon).
2. CHTITHA HOYA
Our second Hoya recipe is prepared in Algerian style: I call it “Chtitha Hoya”. Chtitha is a local way of cooking a dish which can basically be either meat, shrimp, chicken or carrots cooked in tomato sauce. The ingredients and steps are as follows: fry chopped garlic and Hoya with olive oil. Then add tomato (paste or chopped) and season using salt, black pepper, cumin, and bay leaf. This dish can be eaten warm or cold, with bread or rice, as a main dish or as an appetizer with a salad.
3. GRATIN DE HOYA
Next is Hoya prepared in French style: “Gratin de Hoya”. Sea pineapple, shrimps, clams, and mushrooms are stir-fried with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Then, after spooning the mix into a small earthenware pot, add “béchamel” sauce (white sauce made of butter (2tbs), flour (2tbs), ¼ cup heated milk, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg). You can top this with cheese and then bake it in an oven or microwave for a few minutes. In the same way as the Chtitha Hoya, this dish also goes well with bread or rice – the choice is yours.
4. CREPES WITH SEAFOOD & VEG STIR-FRY
Finally, one for the busy people – a quick and easy recipe: Crêpes with seafood and vegetable stir-fry. For the seafood, I used Hoya and shrimp; for the vegetables I chose to add onion, mushroom, carrots, and sweet pepper; for seasoning, some olive oil, black pepper, salt, thyme, and sage leaves. I put the mixture inside some freshly made crêpes with cheese and said “itadakimasu! / 頂きます” !
And there you have it – Hoya haters, you will hate how good these dishes taste! Give them a try, form your own opinions and let your imagination run free creating new recipes of your own!