When I spotted this green-colored Kamaboko sitting in the refrigerator case next to the standard pink ones at Ward Marukai the other day, I immediately thought “Oh cool, they got a Christmas theme goin’ on!” I’ve never seen Kamaboko this color before – whether it be Okuhara or Amano brand. Therefore, I called the Amano factory in Hilo (the company who makes this one) to find out whether the green version is indeed a special limited Christmas holiday edition, to which they confirmed it is. So no more green ones after December.
Of course holiday-themed colored food ain’t nothing new – especially in candy land – with the likes of M&M’s first in mind, making orange ones for Halloween, green ones for St. Patrick’s Day, and, like these Kamaboko, red and green ones for Christmas. Speaking of that, I remember at a Generation Kikaida event a few years ago, they had Blue & Red frosted cookies for sale. Toh!
Let’s take a closer look, starting with the packaging…
As you see, they’re vacuum-sealed, extending their shelf life. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can read the ingredients, where you’ll see they included the green version’s food coloring information so that it’s a one-label-fits-both deal (cheaper production). Other than that, the main ingredient in both versions is Surimi paste, the same “mystery fish” stuff used to make imitation crab.
The best part of all, now let’s cut a few slices of each one and have a taste!…
Any difference between the two? Yes: the green one tastes like Peppermint and the pink one tastes like strawberry. Nah, just kiddin’. Ya’ think that would work though? A sweetened, mint or fruit-flavored fish cake? I don’t know and am not in any hurry to find out. lol
No, actually, there’s no difference in flavor. The only way you might think otherwise is if you let your mind trick you to think otherwise based on their outer appearance. Quite honestly, the green one by itself looks kinda’ unappetizing to me. Mainly, probably because I’m used to pink Kamaboko. Yet when they’re presented side-by-side, they instantly both become festive and full of holiday cheer.
If you’re not familiar with Kamaboko made in Hawaii, it tastes similar to imitation crab (you HAVE tried that I hope), except, well, just not as “crabby”. More “meaty-fishy”, yet obscure of exactly what it’s made of thanks to that Surimi paste its mostly comprised of. Texture-wise, it’s like medium-soft rubber, yet easy to cut through and chew.
Now all you creative cooks out there are probably already rubbing your hands together, thinking of the culinary possibilities available using these holiday-themed Kamaboko. Especially in the flexibility in how Kamaboko can be sliced up for different types of presentations. I’ll be showcasing three of them here.
The very first dish that came to my mind when in the store was a Christmas-themed Somen Salad, so that’s exactly what I did…
Hey, gotta’ admit, that does look full of holiday cheer!
The two green blobs on the corner are dollops of Wasabi paste, while the light pink stuff on the bottom left corner is Sushi Shoga (sweetened pickled ginger), and on the top right Beni Shoga (tart pickled ginger).
I had all kinds of debates within on how I was gonna’ arrange this, settling on keeping the green on one side and red (pink) on the other. From there I mixed it by putting the red charsiu on the green side and green cucumber on the red (pink) side.
My other option was to either alternate the Kamaboko red/green/red/green///, or to itemize each type in their own section like this other one I made as a take-out plate for my niece…
That’s how Zippy’s arranges their Somen Salad…
My next thought was making the classic local style bowl of Saimin with the red and green Kamaboko, and here’s how it turned out…
That looks pretty good. Shucks though, I should have used my red or green pair of Hashi (chopsticks). It also would have been cool to have green-colored charsiu to go along with the classic red charsiu. I must note, this Sun Noodle brand “Hawaii’s Original Saimin” is fantastic. The best I’ve had yet. The noodles’ texture and flavor rules!
Finally I decided on making my very own Kamaboko Sashimi Platter. I came up with this idea during my days of singlehood, when finding anything in the kitchen to make a quick meal was a common occurance. One day I was craving sashimi, and was too lazy to run to the store for some fresh Ahi, then when I spotted the open package of Kamaboko in the fridge, I was like “Bingo!”. So I shredded some cabbage on a plate, sliced the Kamaboko thin like Ahi Sashimi then just whacked it like that along with my “why clear just one nostril when you can clear your entire sinus cavity out” hotter-than-hot wasabi shoyu dipping sauce. Sashimi purists would probably frown upon my Wasabi-choking madness, arguing that too much will kill the flavor of the fresh Ahi, but I don’t care. That’s how I like it.
Here I present a Christmas version of my Kamaboko Sashimi Platter…
Notice the ratio of Wasabi paste compared with the amount of shoyu in that shallow sauce dish. No scade… go for it!
How’s the contrasting colors of the Kamaboko slices? Again, quite festive. Looks like you could almost put them on a string and decorate your Christmas tree or house with it. lol Well, you probably could, but your house will smell funny and be full of ants the next day.
Seriously though, you should try making this budget-busting Kamaboko Sashimi Platter. Winnahz! While of course it can’t touch fresh, top grade, expertly-sliced ahi, it’s a tasty twist on the dish, and best of all will set you back just $2 for a full platter.
Getting back to the Somen salad adventures, here’s a couple of Somen Salad plates I made (for family members) at the same time WITHOUT the green Kamaboko, so you can compare the two from a presentation aspect…
That’s a dollop of Wasabi on top in the center.
Actually, the Somen salad already has enough green in it from the lettuce, cucumber and wasabi, but hey, the green Kamaboko does bring a little more excitement and Holiday theme to the plate.
If you’re not familiar with Somen Salad, it’s a “localized” take on a traditional Japanese noodle dish that just goes by the name “Somen”. Instead of being in a hot broth like most ramen, the noodles are served cold and dry (cooked al dente, but dry). There actually is a hot, broth-based version of somen called Nyumen. What makes Somen now a “salad” are the addition of sliced charsiu (or ham or SPAM), egg omelet, Kamaboko, cucumber, greeen onion and lettuce. Those toppings are unique to Hawaii, and most likely you will not find somen in such form in Japan. This evolution is similar to what happened with Saimin.
Somen noodles are made with wheat flour and are much finer and more delicate than ramen or saimin noodles, especially when boiling them. They cook quickly, from dry to done within 2 minutes, to which you must rinse them thoroughly after cooking in cold water to “shock it” and stop the cooking, as well as get any starch out, so they don’t stick after the water is drained.
Here’s a package of Somen noodles I purchased from Don Quijote…
What I love about Japanese food (and products in general) is their attention to detail, right down the packaging. Especially with noodles such as ramen and somen, they often portioned in single serving bundles (or packets)…
This package of 5 portions was just $1.29 on sale. That’s a lotta’ bang for the buck!
If you watch Soko Ga Shiritai (KIKU-TV), then chances are you’ve (virtually) visited tons of ramen shop kitchens (as well as every other type of specialty restaurant) throughout Japan. There, you may have noticed that many of them cook ramen in huge vats of rapidly boiling water using individually-portioned strainer baskets. That’s the same method I used to cook each individual portion of somen in this package…
I don’t have one them cool ramen baskets (yet), so I made do with a regular screen collander. After just a quick 2 minute boil they’re done. You can tell by tasting some as it goes. They’ll from al dente to soggy quickly so stay right there while they’re in the boiling water.
Once they’re done, lift up the collander and shake it to get as much hot water out and back into the boiling pot, then take it straight to the kitchen sink and thoroughly rinse the cooked Somen under cold running water. You can also shock it in ice water to make it cold quicker. This stops the cooking process and keeps them at optimum al dente doneness. After they’re thoroughly rinsed and cool, shake as much water out as possible. Then, a trick I learned from my girlfriend (who she learned from a Japanese coworker), is to coat the freshly-cooked somen noodles with just a little sesame oil. Just a small drop will do, otherwise the sesame oil will overpower it.
Just a small drop is enough. Then take your chopsticks and thoroughly, yet gently toss the somen noodles to evenly coat them with the sesame oil. This will prevent them from sticking.
Now it’s ready for service, just add toppings.
To eat somen salad, you need the proper dipping sauce called Somen Tsuyu…
This Aloha brand Somen Tsuyu is concentrated, so you must add an equal portion of water to dilute it. I also added a little wasabi in mine, just because I like it that way. You could also add grated ginger, sesame oil and/or green onion. Everyone has their own style. For serving, some folks prefer pouring the Somen Tsuyu sauce over the entire salad like you would any other salad dressing, but I prefer dipping the salad in the sauce.
Chances are if your favorite supermarket sells somen noodles, they sell Somen Tsuyu. Otherwise make your own from scratch. There’s tons of recipes online.
Here one more time is that massive Christmas Somen Salad platter I prepared the other day…
Another dish I thought of making using the green and pink was a Kamaboko Salad. Perhaps next holiday season.
Any other ideas using red (pink) and green Kamaboko? Leave a comment and let’s hear about it!
As mentioned earlier, Amano Fish Cake Factory in Hilo are only making the green Kamaboko for a limited time during the holiday season, while supplies last. Check your local (Hawaii) supermarket for availability.
Kamaboko freezes well, and I’m not sure if Amano plans to sell them in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, but if that holiday is one you like to festively observe, this is a good opportunity to stash a few green Kamaboko in the ice chest for that lucky day next March.
By now you should have noticed I’m a huge (see platter above) Somen Salad fan. Kamaboko too.