Certain types of Japanese food, like tempura or grilled yakitori chicken skewers, are pretty agreeable to Western palates. In recent years, sushi has made inroads into the international dining scene, too.
Many non-Japanese diners, though, still feel a little hesitant about kamaboko, or fish cake. Despite its mild flavor, there’s just something incongruous about it in many people’s minds. It’s actually pretty tasty stuff, though, and if you’re on the fence about trying it, we should point out that it has a surprisingly mild flavor.
Or, perhaps we could entice you with this special variety of kamaboko that, when cut, reveals an elegant hydrangea pattern.
Ordinary kamaboko is plain white, with maybe a thin strip of pink along the outer edge.
Kamaboko maker Kagosei, based in Kanagawa Prefecture’s Odawara, gets a little bit more creative. Throughout the year, Kagosei produces special batches of kamaboko with seasonal visual cues, such as the decorative dolls of February’s Hina Matsuri festival or cherry blossoms in spring.
Kanagawa is particularly famous for its beautiful hydrangeas (it is, after all, the prefecture where the gorgeous Hydrangea Temple is located). So to celebrate their blooming, in June Kagosei sells kamaboko with a hydrangea pattern that appears in the cross-section, no matter where you slice it.
The kamaboko doesn’t taste like hydrangeas, unless hydrangeas just happen to have the same flavor as ordinary fish cake (we can’t say for sure as nobody ever eats the flowers). It’s still delicious, though, and made with the traditional methods Kagosei has been using since the company was founded in 1814, giving the kamaboko just the right firmness.
Kagosei has four shops in Odawara, plus a sales counter inside the Yokohama branch of department store Sogo, which is its closest retail outlet to Tokyo. Purchases can also be made online here, with prices starting at 518 yen (US$5.10).