Everything tastes better when it’s a cube!

It’s certainly no secret that Japan is a country that loves to eat fish and in a variety of ways from sushi to soups to a nice grilled filet. But it might surprise some to learn that by and large people here don’t really go for the taste of the humble fish stick or “fish finger” if you will.

Heavily processed and battered white fish meat does exist in Japan, mainly as a cheap bento side dish and in the Filet-O-Fish at McDonald’s. That’s about the limit that it’s tolerated though, with supermarket freezer sections only offering a smattering of frozen processed fish meat.

▼ KFC also flirted with Kentucky Fried Fish,  but it never stuck around

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It’s not terribly clear why this is. Some might say it’s a general awareness of food quality that causes people in Japan to stay away from conglomerated meats from unclear origins. However, chicken nuggets are everywhere despite being made in a very similar manner, so people here clearly aren’t that averse to highly processed foods.

▼ Heck, we even found fish meat that had been processed into a pepperoni pizza, now that’s processing!

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More likely it’s just a conception of what fish “should” be in the minds of Japanese diners. To draw comparisons, it might be like how a lover of pork ribs might flinch at the concept of Spam. Or more universally, fish sticks to Japanese people might be seen the same way that anyone would view eating processed broccoli sticks coated in bread. That probably wouldn’t taste so bad, but most people’s initial reaction to it would probably be to ask; “Why even bother doing this?”

▼ The Japanese standard for fish served with the global standard for broccoli

However, eating unprocessed fish has its drawbacks. It’s full of bones that are a nuisance at best and dangerous at worst. It can be time consuming and messy to cook and leave a less-than-pleasant smelling amount of waste when finished.

According to major retailer Aeon, who also runs a number of supermarket chains, these issues, combined with a drastic increase in home cooking due to COVID-19, have led to an increased demand for a simpler way to cook fish. These are the perfect conditions for fish sticks to finally dominate in Japan, right?


Aeon instead went to great lengths to develop fish meat that was both minimally processed but easy to cook and eat. The fruits of this labor is Papatto Dekiru Osakana Okazu (“Fish Side Dish In a Jiffy”) which is sold under Aeon’s Top Valu store brand and available in five types of fish: Pacific cod, horse mackerel, salmon, yellowtail, and chub mackerel.

Despite their very inorganic shape, this meat undergoes the bare minimum of processing, if you would even call it “processing.” In a nutshell, the bones are removed from the fish filets which are then stacked into a layered sheet and pressed together while freezing, with no binding agent used at all.

These frozen sheets of fish are then cut up into cubes, dusted with flour and packaged. It’s all much easier said than done, because getting the different cuts of fish to merge as one and stay that way throughout thawing and cooking took a lot of trial and error. In the end though, Aeon says that this method ended up using more of the fish’s meat and ultimately reduced waste, because even the thinner meat near the tail of the fish was usable this way.

The result is a boneless bite-size cut of fish that only needs to be plopped into a frying pan to cook. Aeon is hoping that this simplicity will encourage home cooks to experiment more with dishes using fish such as pastas and salads.

These fish cubes have only hit seafood sections on 12 May for about 358 yen (US$3.26) a pack, so it remains to be seen if they’ll catch on. If the day ever comes that we see skilfish or warasubo sold in cubes, it’ll probably be safe to say that it was a success.

Source: Top Value, FNN Prime Online, PR Times
Top image: YouTube/トップバリュ公式チャンネル【TOPVALU】
Insert images: PR Times (Unless otherwise stated)
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