The snack of champions.

One of the defining features of a culture is its cuisine, whether it’s a preference for spicy foods or knack for fermentation. But while a shared sense of taste can help unite a culture it can also prove divisive with other cultures. For example, let’s look at a snack food sold at various stores in Japan that has been trending on social media.

Almond Fish is the compact name of this product that doesn’t mince words – or fish apparently – because it quite simply is just a bag of cut almonds and tiny dried Japanese anchovies. It’s gotten attention recently because a Japanese person living in the USA tweeted about how the product was seen as repulsive to western culinary sensibilities.

And as a westerner living in Japan, I’d have to agree that this snack does not sound appetizing at all. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a strong aversion to nuts of almost all kinds. Don’t get me wrong, I love the flavor in a cream or thoroughly crushed form, but it’s the texture of most nuts that feels like some kind of waxy wood and makes me want to gag.

▼ I consider this more of a building material than food.

Nevertheless, I decided to face my disgust for nuts and try a bag of Almond Fish for myself to see if it’s really as bad as it looks. The 7-Eleven near me was selling 20-gram (0.7-ounce) bags for just 100 yen (US$0.73), which was a pretty good deal for a light snack, especially in this economy.

Opening the bag released a rich salty seafood aroma and I was pleased to see that the fish appeared to outnumber the almonds by quite a bit.

Even after tossing a handful in my mouth, I was pleased to find that the gross chalky texture of the almonds was mostly covered up by the very fresh crispness of the dried-up fish.

For the most part it was just like eating some trail mix and everything was nicely seasoned with a blend of mirin, wine, sesame seeds and other flavorings. However, as I neared the bottom of the bag, I noticed that there were more almonds than I had previously thought. I guess they had just all settled to the bottom.

Because of that the last few handfuls were more of an ordeal to get through. More of the almonds’ ceraceous awfulness could be felt in my mouth and was getting stuck in the back of my teeth.

▼ It just got worse and worse…

Overall, it was a perfectly fine snack though. I’d just recommend anyone who tries it to shake up the bag before eating to ensure a better balance of almonds and fish with each handful.

By the way, here’s the tweet that set off all the attention for this snack.

▼ “The small fish in Almond Fish is just as gross as eating insects to Americans, so crunching on some in front of Americans can be fun. (Eating the head and eyes of a fish is the really gross part)”


Yeah, although nowhere near as gross as chunks of almond, I can see how the fish might be considered off-putting to some. Heck even on the bag, one of them seems to have that zombie eyeball from the cutscene at the beginning of the first Resident Evil.

And granted, I wouldn’t want to eat the head of something huge like a bluefin tuna. But these little anchovies are so tiny you would have to work hard to even notice their bones or zombie eyes while eating them. Besides, in addition to being roly-poly, fish heads are said to be quite nutritious.

▼ That being said, I’m not sure how much the drying process of Almond Fish diminishes that nutrition. This guy’s looking a little emaciated.

So anyone considering taking that first step in broadening their culinary horizons with some fish eyes and bones, the very conventional taste of Almond Fish would be a pretty good place to start. Once that’s out of the way, you can level up to eating pancakes with scores of tiny whole fish on top.

Reference: Twitter/@girlmeetsNG,
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