Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kamaboko (蒲鉾) and Other Surimi Products

Kamaboko (蒲鉾) is a Japanese ingredient made from white fish that have been pureed, mixed with flavorings, and then steamed to form a steamed fish cake.

Traditionally, kamaboko was formed on a wooden board for steaming which produces the hallmark half-moon shape you see it in.

Nowadays you can find kamaboko without the wood, but most varieties will still be steamed on wood.
Imitation crab sticks work great for cheap sushi

Does this sound totally weird? I wish I could have described it more appetizingly. However, the pureed white fish, called surimi, is the same process that is used to make imitation crab (called kanikama, which is short for kani-kamaboko). So if you've enjoyed a california roll, you've had surimi. The biggest difference between imitation crab and kamaboko is just the texture as kamaboko is chewier and firmer.

Kamaboko and narutomaki with awesome designs!
Kamaboko is traditionally used in Japanese cuisine as a topping for soups, noodle dishes, bentos, and hot pot dishes. Japanese American uses for it include creamy dips, as an alternative to crab in crab salads, and in somen salad. You can purchase kamaboko at any Japanese market, and most likely most of the other Asian markets. If you're in Hawaii, you can buy it in any grocery store (I'm jealous!).

You will also see narutomaki, a type of kamaboko that has has a fun swirl in the middle and is round rather than half moon. They taste exactly the same.

There are some other surimi products that I've used on this blog that slightly different in taste, however.

Chikuwa (L) and Satsuma Age (R)
Chikuwa (竹輪) is a surimi product very similar in taste and texture to kamaboko but instead of being formed on a piece of wood, it is molded around a bamboo or metal stick before being broiled. This creates an airy skin around the fish cake edge that works very well in soups to absorb sauce.

Satsuma-age (薩摩揚げ) is another type of surimi product where the fish cake is deep fried. Sometimes you will find the fish paste is first mixed with other ingredients like onions, ginger, or even other meats such as shrimp.

Last but not least, hanpen (半片)is made with surimi that has been boiled, which yields a softer and more delicately flavored fish cake.

Dishes that use Kamaboko or Narutomaki:
Kamaboko Dip 
Toshikoshi Soba
Yawatahama Champon

Dishes that use Chikuwa:
Chikuwa Teriyaki Donburi

Dishes that use Satsuma-age:
Chikuwa Teriyaki Donburi

Dishes that use Kanikama:

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