Secret of the Sea: Lolliguncula Brevis

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The sparkling enope squid, which is found in the Western Pacific Ocean, is a seasonal delicacy that is found in sushi bars between the months of March and May. They're also known as "firefly squid" (hotaru ika in Japanese) because each tentacle contains a photophore that flashes a luminescent blue light in the ocean.

Commercially fished and predominantly imported from Japan, these tiny squids grow to no more than three inches long and are difficult to come by in the United States. Imagine my surprise when I was presented with a plate piled with poached miniature squid caught fresh from the Gulf of Mexico at Lucky Star Billiards and Game Room (12507 Scarsdale Boulevard; no phone number). My curiosity was piqued --were there firefly squid here in Galveston?

Although Lucky Star doesn't have a menu, sometimes you'll see owner Vo Thi My carrying out Styrofoam plates of simply steamed clams, shrimp or crabs which are given to her as gifts from visiting fishermen friends on their way home from a day out at sea. On this particular day, they brought her a batch of tiny squid that were caught in the shrimp nets by accident. Once poached or boiled, the speckled squids are small enough to be eaten whole and ooze a wonderful creaminess upon the first bite -- this is from the guts, which are often referred to as "sea miso" as a euphemism. (Beware of the clear strip of cartilage, which needs to be removed.) The tender, bouncy snap and crunchy tentacles are quite addictive, especially when dipped into lemon juice mixed with salt and black pepper.

After some research, I discovered that I had eaten a species of squid called lolliguncula brevis that lives along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Unlike the sparkling enope, which can be found at depths of 600 to 1,200 feet, these local ones live near the shore in approximately 65 feet of water. "The fishermen usually keep these for themselves," saysVo. "That's why you can rarely find them at the seafood market."

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