Sweet mackerel! This is going to be one helluva taste test. 

Our intrepid Japanese-language reporter Mr Sato has seen — and tasted — a lot of things in his time, so it’s not often you’ll hear him say things like “That made me do a double-take” or “I can’t believe my eyes”.

However, that’s what he found himself saying the other day, when he was browsing the shelves at the Japan Foodstuff Department Store, a shop inside the JR Akihabara Station building that sells canned products from all over the country.

▼ In the mackerel section, next to the popular Cava brand of canned mackerel from Iwate Prefecture, something seemed a little off.

There, on the left-hand side, was a brown can that just didn’t look like it belonged there, causing Mr Sato to do a double-take, as it had the word “chocolate” written on it in English.

Looking closer, Mr Sato could see the words “Choco Saba” on the label, and with “saba” meaning “mackerel” in English, it was clear that this can contained chocolate-flavoured mackerel.

Mr Sato couldn’t believe his eyes, and because that doesn’t happen very often, he knew he had to shell out 475 yen (US$4.32) to purchase one of these and take it home for a taste test.

▼ “Chocolate scent and rich mackerel flavor”

Though he’d heard of sushi restaurant chains selling fish fed on chocolate as part of their diets, Mr Sato had never heard of chocolate being paired with mackerel before. Checking the ingredients on the label to make sure this wasn’t some gimmick, he could see the words “chocolate, sugar, butter” clearly listed after “mackerel, sake, mirin, soy sauce”.

▼ “Chocolate, sugar, butter” (which Mr Sato highlighted with a red box below) are not ingredients you’d expect to see on a can of fish.

Unsure if the contents would be more like chocolatey fish or fishy chocolate, he pulled the tab on the lid to reveal…

▼ Ta daaaa!! 

Wow. Just…wow. This was a can of fish alright, but the sauce, which looked deceptively like curry or miso, was actually made from CHOCOLATE.

▼ Emptying the contents onto a plate, this meal had all the visual appeal of pet food.

Still, Mr Sato knows to never judge a turd-like pile of food by its appearance, so he decided to add the saucy brown chunks to a bowl of white rice to make a substantial meal of it.

Sniffing it revealed a very strong scent of chocolate, which messed with Mr Sato’s mind as he couldn’t quite wrap his head around eating what was essentially a fish-and-chocolate rice bowl.

Lifting a mouthful to his lips, he tentatively placed the food on his tongue and slowly chewed. Surprisingly, the chocolate taste was quite modest. In fact, if he were to compare it to a rock band, the chocolate would not be out in front, playing a dazzling solo like Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. It would be the backing guitarist, faithfully playing away in the background, but keeping everyone on their toes in case it attempted a surprise solo during the performance.

The star of the show here, the Malmsteen of the dish, if you will, was the mackerel. Like the label suggested, the mackerel was rich, and the chocolate seemed to give it an added depth of flavour. It was surprisingly tasty, but Mr Sato reckons it would be even better stirred through cold pasta for a summer dish that’ll surprise all your guests!

The chocolate mackerel can be ordered online, and if you’re looking for other unusual canned products, you might want to check out this stone in a can, or even these rings, which let you wear your love for canned fish on your fingers!

Store information
Nihon Hyakkaten Shokuhinkan / 日本百貨店しょくひんかん
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Neribeicho, 8-2, CHABARA Building
東京都千代田区神田練塀町8-2 CHABARA(ちゃばら)内
Hours: 11:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m. (Closed: New Year’s Day; the first Wednesday in June; the first Wednesday in November)

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