People in Japan usually don’t make kamaboko, because it can be bought easily at grocery stores. But in the United States, where Japanese groceries are harder to get and cost twice as much as I pay in Japan, I do.
Kamaboko is made of fish paste, and it can be molded into any shape. Most commonly kamaboko is sold as a half cylindrical shape on top of a piece of wood platform. For osechi ryori, Japanese new year’s celebration food, slices of red and white kamaboko (above photo) are served. Sliced kamaboko is eaten with soy sauce and wasabi, or can be ingredients of nabe or dashi based clear soup.
Imitation crab meat (called kani kama in Japanese) is also 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.
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 textured 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 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 explain below, because there is no way of knowing when it was actually fished, even though the label showed it was packed on the day I bought.
Particular type of dorless tree is used in Japan for the base or platform of kamaboko, but they are hard to get 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 doesn’t smell, 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)