Kamaboko Recipe

kamaboko

People in Japan usually don’t make kamaboko, because it’s readily available at grocery stores. But I do in the United States, where Japanese groceries are harder to get and cost twice as much as I pay in Japan.

Kamaboko is made of fish paste, and it can be molded into any shape. Most common kamaboko is sold as a half cylindrical shape on a piece of wood platform. Sliced kamaboko is eaten with soy sauce and wasabi, or can be added to nabe or dashi based clear soup.

Imitation crab meat (called kani kama in Japanese) is also a type of kamaboko, as it is made of fish paste with crab flavorings.

Kamaboko is actually similar to gefilte fish, which is Jewish version of boiled fish paste. The difference of kamaboko is texture and flavoring. Gefilte fish is soft as it contains chopped vegetables and matzo meal, but the best kamaboko is made of only fish and salt, and has more bite than gefilte fish.

Homemade kamaboko tastes much better than store bought kamaboko, and it can be made within one hour if you have a food processor, which significantly reduces time to make smooth fish paste.

Almost any kind of white sea fish fillets can be used to make kamaboko, however, they have to be fresh. It is difficult to buy really fresh fish in the United States, but try your best.

I bought my tilapia fillets at Costco. They looked pretty good, but I added starch and other flavorings, which I will explain below. Unless you go out to fish on your own, you will need to add starch and flavorings to substitute the freshness and bite.

Particular type of dorless tree is used in Japan as a base or platform of kamaboko, but they are hard to find in the U.S. So I bought a couple of pieces of 4-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ x 1/4″ pine wood at a local arts & crafts store and cut them in half. Plywood can’t be used, as it will be steamed and soaked in water.

Small pound cake molds made of silicone would work better than piece of wood, because it’s odorless, and shape forming is easier.

Ingredients (for three 4-1/2″ x 2-1/4″ wood platforms)

  • 1 lb fillets (any white meat sea fish)
  • 2 egg white
  • 1-1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 4-1/2 tbsp arrowroot flour or corn starch
  • 4-1/2 tbsp sake
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • Red food coloring (optional)

Instructions

1
I bought tilapia fillets at Costco. Chop them into small pieces first, then make it to smooth paste using a food processor. Add all the other ingredients and further mix well to incorporate. It should be pasty and sticky with consistency of miso paste.
2
Using a table knife or a baker's spatula, form a mound on a wood board to make a half cylinder shape. If you want to make red and white kamaboko as I did, first make a little smaller half cylinder shape. Reserve small amount of paste and mix a really tiny amount of red food coloring, and cover the smaller mound with the red colored paste.

Alternatively, small silicone molds can be used to stuff the fish paste. This method is significantly easier than using a piece of wood board.

After making shapes, leave them in room temperature for about 30~40 minutes. This waiting time gives distinctive bite to kamaboko.
3
Steam kamaboko about 20 minutes, then immediately cool down in icy cold water for 15 minutes or until they get cold. Separate from the wood platform, slice them into 1/4" to 1/3" a piece, and serve with soy sauce and wasabi.

Comments

  1. This is genius! I can’t wait to make my own kamaboko ^.^

  2. Poland-Japanese Bento says:

    Wow! Great recipe!

  3. ranee says:

    My kamaboko doubled in size as I steamed. What went wrong?

    • Hello Renee, Kamaboko does increase the volume a bit when steamed, but never doubled in my experience. Is it possible that you added baking soda or baking powder instead of corn starch or arrowroot flour? How was the texture?

  4. This recipe is great! Though I haven’t tried it yet, it’s extremely hard to find it pre-made in my part of Scotland.
    I have one question, before I go head first and make some: can it be frozen?

    • I haven’t tried to freeze mine, as I always eat it all pretty quickly. But when I see kamaboko at stores, they are frozen. So that you should be able to freeze them. Make sure to wrap it tight to avoid freezer burn. Good luck.
      Yuki

  5. Petti says:

    This recipe!!! I was looking for a kamaboko recipe! this is definitely what I need!
    by the way, do you know how to make the fried kamaboko? if it is fried after steaming, or before any cooking.

    Thanks for uploading

    • Thank you Petti. Fried kamaboko? Are you talking about “satsuma age”? If so, it’s here. http://japanese-kitchen.net/satsuma-age-recipe/ Both of them are made from the same fish paste.

      • Thanks for replying me!! I knew about satsuma-age, but they are only ball shaped (if I’m not wrong)… Where I live, there is a type between: the shape of the steamed kamaboko and the outside texture of the satsumaage, and wanted to try doing it. If by chance you know about it, it would be awesome! :D

        • Satsumaage can be any shape. Cylinder shape with burdock at the center, oval disk shape, etc. Hanpen is also made from fish paste, but it requires special type of root vegetable (family of yam), which I can’t get in the United States.

  6. salli says:

    hi. tried your recipe last night. the flavor was excellent. the texture was not as smooth as “store bought’ ones. it was a little mealy. even re-steamed for additional 20minutes. used cornstarch. help.

    • Hi Salli,

      Thank you for trying the recipe! The unique texture is developed by leaving the formed kamaboko in room temperature before steaming. Try leaving the formed kamaboko in room temperature up to 1 hour before steaming (not in a fridge, but probably better to let it sit in air conditioned room in summer to avoid spoilage). Also manufactures use a metal sieve or strainer to remove lumps right after using a food processor. It is an additional step, but the process significantly improve the smoothness. Let me know how it goes.

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