June 20, 2011
Fishcakes, such as the Homo Sausage, chikuwa and kamaboko, are some of my favorite foods. It usually weirds people out in the States because of its “processed” figure; but I really enjoy its chewy, rubbery texture, and its flavor of the sea. I’ve always loved fishcake (as does Kayoko) and it’s very disappointing that there isn’t any of the good kinds here in the States. Sure, you can get cheap kamaboko with hot pink food coloring, or cheap chikuwa that taste like rubber. On top of that, they are almost always sold frozen, which I am sure kills the original flavor.
So I decided to make my own fishcake. Just like hotdogs, no one knows what’s in the store bought processed version, and it’s good to learn what’s really in it by making it yourself. After extensive research, I found out it’s actually pretty simple. All you need is a strong hand for kneading (although you can skip this entirely by using a good food processor), and fresh fish.
1lb white fish
2 egg whites
5tbsp corn starch
I used red snapper, which is pretty much the most premium kind of kamaboko you can make. Even in Japan, red snapper kamaboko is something you only eat on special occasions (such as New Year in Japan). But I found that this was the freshest fish at the market, and I figured, why the hell not?
If you have an access to a whole fresh fish, you can fillet it yourself. But it is a lot of work, with all the scaling, skinning and boning, etc.
1. Cut the fish, and soak in an ice bath for a couple of minutes. This apparently gets rid of the fishy smell, plus all the small particles will come off.
2. Pat dry the fish with a paper towel. Make sure to dry it well.
3. Dump the fish in food processor and process until it is somewhat smooth.
I bought a Kitchenaid mini chopper for this. Due to NYC space issues in the average kitchen, I thought getting a full-size food processor would be a bit much, although I was a bit skeptical of how cheapy and plastic-y this mini chopper looked.
4. Once it gets pretty smooth, add half of the salt, pulse. Add the rest of the salt, pulse more. Now add the rest of the ingredients, and pulse away until the consistency is very smooth.
You can use mortar and pestle (or in Japan, suribachi, which is often times used to grind sesame) to do this, but I have a feeling that in order to reach this consistency, it would probably take more than 30 minutes. After processing the fish for a while, it was so thick that the blade started to slow down. But I didn’t stop and kept pulsing, and then just like how you see in the movies, the self-destruction system went off, which literally sounded like a small bomb went off inside the chopper (with sparks and everything), and the whole thing died..
$45 worth of absolute crap. Luckily the consistency was pretty smooth at this point. Besides, it was my first trial, and I thought this was good enough.
5. Take the fish out of the chopper, and dump it all on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape it like how kamaboko should look like. You can mount this mold on top of a piece of wood, just like how you would usually buy it. But I didn’t have any wood, and it doesn’t really matter one way or another, so I just wrapped it like this:
Rest it this way for about an hour, room temp. The resting apparently makes the final product a lot smoother, although I’m not sure why.
6. Then, steam it for about 12-15 minutes.
7. Dump the log into ice bath again to cool it down very quickly.
And it’s done. Pretty simple, don’t you think?
First trial was pretty good. Then I went to BB&B to return the processing piece of crap, and went on to look for something else. And I couldn’t resist the urge to get a real adult-sized food processor, so I went for it. Nate was super against the idea, but I cook so much, and so many people benefit from my cooking, so I justified this and rightfully bought the nice shiny gadget.
Unlike the cheap piece of crap, the base is super sturdy and heavy, and all the parts are made of nice hard plastic, not cheap shit. The best part is how the food processor “clicks” when it’s in place. I love it.
Below you can see the difference between the beginning and the end of the process.
Oh Em Gee. This investment was totally worth it! The speed, the strength, and the size are all perfect.
Looks almost like butter.
So this time, I wrapped a piece of dowel with aluminum foil, and wrapped some meat around it to make chikuwa. The difference between kamaboko and the chikuwa one is steamed, and the other is steamed and then browned on the outside.
I wrapped them in plastic wrap and steamed this for about eight minutes.
Once this is done, you must brown the outer layer. In order to do this, I have a grilling-fish-on-stove apparatus, and used it to add some nice color. This is super quick. The purpose for this is to get color outside, and it does burn pretty quickly, so you have to keep rolling them continuously.
LOOK AT THIS! It looks like gourmet chikuwa!!!!!!!
AND THE HOLE!!!!! Let me tell you, this tastes SOOOOOOO GOOD. I mean it better, since I paid $22 for a pound of fish. Store bought chikuwa is around $2.50 for five pieces. Just like hot dogs, cheap chikuwa may use guts, brains, carcass and everything in fish and add some flavor to taste like chikuwa, but not mine. This is more like $5 a piece (at cost), and if you add my labor, it would be around $13 a piece.
I was very surprised about how “right” the texture is, and how easily you can create this at home. Apparently it’s all about fish meat meets salt and sugar. Some science happens when you add salt and sugar into fish, and it makes fish meat super sticky, thus creates fantastic rubber like fish product texture.
I am usually a humble Japanese, and don’t brag too much about what I do, but I have to say for this one: I AM A FUCKING GENIUS!!
I have to advise you though, try this only if you have a trustworthy food processor, or you are so obsessed with this that you are determined to do it by hand. Do not do this with your mini chopper unless you want your mini chopper to self-destruct.
Maybe I should learn the beauty of making hot dogs (not sausage) at home.