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)