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Okay, Japan, I’m trusting you on this one. There have been a lot of times in the past when I was skeptical about your foods, and repeatedly you’ve proven me wrong.

You hit a home run with the raw fish thing. Pasta with spicy cod roe and seaweed? Now one of my go-to choices for a quick, hot meal. Grilled chicken cartilage? Stuff is delicious.

And now you want me to try desserts made with tuna? Sure, let’s do this.

Kobe and Matsuzaka have become internationally famous for their beef, but it’s not just red meat that sometimes acquires a localized cachet in Japan. The port of Misaki, located in Kanagawa Prefecture’s Miura City (75 minutes south from Tokyo and 55 minutes from Yokohama), is known for having some of the country’s tastiest tuna.

Misaki’s image is so strongly tied to tuna (or maguro, as it’s called in Japanese), that there’s a combination round-trip train ticket/lunch voucher usable in some of its restaurants called the Misaki Maguro Ticket. But while sashimi and sushi are the king and queen of Misaki’s culinary kingdom, you can find all other sorts of tuna-based foodstuffs there too, like tuna ramen and tuna steamed buns.

And now, you can also find tuna desserts.

Just to be clear, these fish cakes aren’t taiyaki, the popular Japanese snack with an outer layer like a pancake and sweet bean paste inside which just happen to be shaped like fish. Nor are they kamaboko, the soft blocks made from fish that are often added to soups and noodle broths.

Nope, these are straight-up sweet desserts that also happen to contain chunks of tuna. Misaki confectioner Seigetsu, which also makes more traditional, fish-free sweets, has created two extremely unorthodox offerings, the maguleine and the kabutoyaki.

▼ Seigetsu’s original location in Misaki

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▼ Maguleine on the left, kabutoyaki on the right

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For this taste-test, let’s open with the 200-yen (US$1.60) maguleine. Pronounced magurenu, it’s a mashup of maguro and madeleine, the shell-shaped French sponge cake that serves as the maguleine’s starting point.

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From the outside, it looks like any ordinary madeleine, but…

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… it does not smell like one.

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It smells like a fish.

But like I said, it looks pretty good! Visibly moist and with a surprising amount of heft, it’s clear that Seigetsu knows how to bake a cake.

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Maybe this won’t taste as bad as it smells. Still, the unmistakable odor of tuna has raised my curiosity along with my defenses, so before tasting it, I decided to cut the maguleine in half to see what I was getting (and biting) into.

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Sure enough, near the bottom of the cake there’s a layer of little chunks of fish.

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With the tuna’s presence confirmed by both sight and smell, it was time to dig in.

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And wouldn’t you know it…

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…the maguleine tastes exactly like it smells: like tuna. The morsels of fish have a texture similar to dried fruit, so they don’t feel that out of place. The tuna flavor, though is even stronger than I’d imagined, and the fact that the cake itself is as properly sweet and buttery as a normal madeleine makes the taste all the more incongruent and distressing.

▼ These tiny bits of fish punch above their weight class, and they may as well be hitting you in the kidneys for as pleasant as the experience is.

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Okay, let’s move on to Seigetsu’s next offbeat product, the kabutoyaki.

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Unlike the maguleine, the 140-yen kabutoyaki’s name is entirely Japanese. Japan has a number of sweet treats that end in –yaki, which means “baked” or “grilled,” including dorayaki, ningyoyaki, and the aforementioned taiyaki. But what’s kabuto mean?

Fish head. Actually, kabutoyaki is also the common term for a whole roast fish head, and that’s indeed a cut of tuna you can buy at markets in Misaki and elsewhere in Japan.

▼ The inspiration for a great-tasting dessert?

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Seigetsu’s kabutoyaki cake certainly looks the part. As a matter of fact, standing it upright on a plate makes it look like it’s swimming out of some alternate dimension that’s connected to our world through the dish.

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But even with the trauma of the maguleine still fresh in my mind and mouth, I held out hope. After all, character-shaped cakes are pretty common in Japan, so there was a chance the kabutoyaki would be sort of like the Hello Kitty pastries my coworker Preston sampled last month. Plus, the packaging mentioned the kabutoyaki’s tuna (which doesn’t seem to be sourced from the actual fish’s head) is seasoned, so maybe it’d make for a more harmonious match with the sweet ingredients.

First, though, let’s take a look inside.

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Without any context, that cross-section may not look very appealing, but the good news is that the kabutoyaki is packed with anko, the sweet red bean paste that, as we’ve mentioned before, makes just about everything better.

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On the other hand, there’s still tuna.

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If your doctor has told you to limit your intake of seafood/dessert hybrids and you have to choose between the maguleine and the kabutoyaki, the kabutoyaki is the one to go for. The cake isn’t quite as buttery as the maguleine’s, plus the anko has a touch of saltiness and isn’t as sweet as some varieties. The tuna itself has a bit of a soy sauce-like flavoring, which mellows it enough that for half a second or so after taking a bite, the kabutoyaki is actually a fairly pleasant dessert. Soon enough, though, the tuna flavor starts spreading through your mouth to spoil the fun.

Still, while it’d be overly generous to say the kabutoyaki’s composite flavors complement each other, they don’t clash as violently as those of the maguleine.

▼ Eating the kabutoyaki is merely puzzling and mildly concerning, while the maguleine produces legitimate panic and genuine worry.

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But maybe the weirdest thing of all about these two confectionaries is that the parts that Seigetsu plays straight taste great. The cake and anko portions of the maguleine and kabutoyaki are perfectly tasty, and if you have got the patience to carefully remove all of the bits of tuna, they make perfectly tasty snacks.

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Finally, despite the weirdness here, Misaki’s maguro really is as delicious as it’s billed as, and there’s always the (wise) option of popping into one of its dozens of restaurants for some tuna sashimi or sushi, then swinging by Seigetsu for a dessert that doesn’t contain any marine products. But if you want a culinary experience you’re not likely to ever forget, even if you try, the maguleine and kabutoyaki are waiting.

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Shop information
Seigetsu / 清月
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Miura-shi, Misaki 4-12-2
Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays
Website (Tabelog)

The maguleine and kabutoyaki can also be purchased at the Urari marketplace, which is located closer to central Misaki.
Urari / うらり
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Miura-shi, Misaki 5-3-1

Related: Misaki Maguro Ticket website
Photos: ©RocketNews24