I’ve always had trouble explaining what Kamaboko is, as we don’t really have a common equivalent in the west. There’s honestly no literal translation that conveys what it is accurately.
I’ve heard it described as a ‘fish cake’ but it differs greatly from what is considered a fish cake in the west, so I’ve decided it’s best described as a ‘fish loaf’ (due to the way it’s sliced).
Bluntly put, it’s processed sea food (Surimi), somewhat reminiscent in flavour of crab sticks and commonly used in soups and ramen, although you can also eat it plain on it’s own in slices.
‘Shiraken’ is one of Ishinomaki’s best known shops specialising in Kamaboko, about a 5 minute walk from Ishinomaki station, where you can not only get large packages of Kamaboko (such as in the above picture), but also grab smaller snack sized bars.
I tried a bar of cheese flavoured Kamoboko and it wasn’t bad – however, afterwards I couldn’t help thinking Kamoboko is best enjoyed with another food, rather than on it’s own. But if you’re mad about the taste of fish, this is the snack for you.
And now you know the name of the small thinly sliced food you’ll see regularly featured in your soup and ramen during your time in Japan!