Kamaboko is one of the fish paste products which is made by kneading minced fish, and steam or bake to make it firm. It normally uses fish with white flesh such as cod, and shark. It is normally eaten without heating to taste the natural flavor of the fish, but broiling it also gives a savory taste which goes well with alcohol.
Kamaboko is often topped on soba buckwheat noodles or udon noodles. However, it is sometimes served as a main dish, by only adding Japanese horseradish, which is called itawasa. The characteristics of high grade kamaboko are the shiny whiteness and the slight toughness, and the taste becomes deeper as it is being chewed.
In the old days, fish paste was wrapped around on a bamboo stick, and the way it looks like was similar to the ear of the plant called “gama” (蒲), and kamaboko is spelled 蒲鉾 in Japanese. The recent kamaboko is often formed on a wooden board “ita” (板), and is called itakamaboko (板蒲鉾).
For itakamaboko, only the white meat of the the white flesh fish is used. The meat will be washed with water to remove blood and fat, and will be minced with millstone, adding sugar, salt, sweet rice wine, and egg white. When the ingredients are kneaded, thickening agent or or food additives are sometimes added to make it easier to form a semicircular shape on the wooden board.
White flesh fish and kamaboko was considered precious food from Heian period (794-1192) until before Edo period (1603-1867). It is told that that kamaboko was offered to warlord Nobunaga Oda for his last supper before the fight at Honnoji temple in 1582. Kamaboko started to be sold as a product in the Edo period among the common people.