Everyone’s loco for kamaboko!

It’s time once again for our most gluttonous of writers to put their tongues to the test and see if a career of food reviews has given them palettes fit for kings or left them with the taste buds of lowly paupers. To do this we will once again hold a Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check in which each writer must blindly taste two of the same foods and determine which one is considerably more expensive than the other.

At the end of last year, eight members of our team took on Christmas cake and only half of them could pick out the one that was four times more expensive than the other. And now that a new year has begun, we decided to usher it in with the most popular New Year’s food, as chosen in a recent survey.

Kamaboko is a loaf of steamed and seasoned fish cake, which really is a lot better than its description sounds. But it’s also a relatively simple food, so can our lineup of gourmet reporters tell them apart?

First, let’s look at what we’re dealing with. In one corner we have Suzuhiro Kamaboko Kinjo Beni, which is served to the imperial family and is said to be the finest kamaboko, using only fish chosen at the time of year when its meat is most conducive to the production process. In the other corner we have Kinsen Yuzuki, which can be found in supermarket kamaboko sections all over Japan.

▼ Suzuhiro Kamaboko Kinjo Beni (left) and Kinsen Yuzuki (right)

Suzuhiro Kamaboko Kinjo Beni costs 1,274 yen (US$9.68) whereas a loaf of Kinsen Yuzuki will run you about 128 yen ($0.97). However, their sizes are not equal so when adjusting for weight there’s a price difference of about three and half times.

By the way, this isn’t the first time our team has tackled kamaboko. A similar challenge was held in 2017 in which only Mr. Sato guessed correctly, so it’s an especially difficult one.

▼ Mr. Sato winning in 2017

However, since then Mr. Sato has had a really checkered track record with Gourmet Writer’ Rating Checks, so can he retain his coveted crown of kamaboko king? Let’s find out…

▼ I’m already lost as to which one is which, so let’s see how the others do.

P.K. Sanjun: “A”

P.K.: “A didn’t really give me any impression. I mean, I couldn’t tell either way which one it was. It was just a really good kamaboko… But after I ate B that all changed. A suddenly shined as the better one. As for the taste, A had a stronger flavor, and I think B was a little bit weak. I guess, that could mean B is more elegant? But I still think it’s A, overall. I’m not crazy sure, but I’ll go with A.”

Go Hatori: “A”

Go: “Oh, I got this. A had a really deep flavor, like a flavor of the sea. A was also really light and springy, but B felt more like pudding and had no elasticity. A seemed more like the kind of kamaboko I’d have on New Year’s Day and B was more like what my mom put in her fried rice. In that way, B felt a lot more familiar to me, so I’m really sure about this.”

Seiji Nakazawa: “A”

Seiji: “I don’t know… Both tasted about the same but had different textures. A had a certain squishiness and B was just like Spam. That feeling was kind of like normal kamaboko. There’s no difference in the taste, but considering the firmness, I think it’s A. I’d guess that the kamaboko served to the imperial family would have to be firm. I’m pretty sure about this.”

Ahiruneko: “A”

Ahiruneko: “I mean, is B even kamaboko?! I don’t even know where to begin…seriously? A and B are completely different! Compared to A, B has no firmness at all. I mean, it’s like a fish sausage for kids. I mean, are you sure B is even kamaboko? Nobody’s giving fish sausage to the imperial family, so yeah, it’s A.”

Yuichiro Wasai: “A”

Yuichiro: “Oh yeah, these are totally different. B was tasty and it had a texture like chikuwa. So yeah, I liked B and thought it was good. Since kamaboko is something eaten during New Year’s, it should have a feeling like it was thoroughly kneaded.  However, because I guessed wrong last time, I’m going to chose the one I liked less and go with A.”

Takashi Harada: “A”

Takashi: “Maybe I’ve eaten the expensive one before. B was clearly harder to eat, or rather, it was too chewy. I wonder if that’s what the difference was. There isn’t much difference in taste but A was firmer. If I compare it to what I remember that one time, I think it’s A. At least, I think the one I ate had that same springy feeling.”

Mr. Sato: “A”

Mr. Sato: “If I’m wrong this time I will readily step down as kamaboko king. I knew it as soon as I ate it! The consistencies are completely different. B had a weak flavor and was squishy. But the real key? The aftertaste of A. I could smell the aroma of the fish through my nose after eating. That is what I would expect from Suzuhiro. I’m absolutely confident this time. Whoever chooses B should be ashamed of themselves, get on their knees, and apologize to the gods of kamaboko.”

Masanuki Sunakoma: “B”

Masanuki: “This is the hardest one ever! Seriously… I dunno… I dunno… But I think the more expensive one is B. To be honest, I don’t really remember much about A, but it seemed normal. If anything, B seemed a little more heavily seasoned and I could get a sense of Japanese cuisine from it. I mean, A just seemed normal. This is the most difficult one ever.”

And so, with all the votes cast, we once again have a seven-one split among our writers. Would an upset happen, with Masanuki stripping Mr. Sato of the kamaboko king crown? Or have our writers learned their lessons from the last kamaboko challenge and truly learned the ways of delicious fish cake?

Everyone gathered in the office to hear the answer…


And there it is! Clearly our gourmet writers have checked their own ability to rate kamaboko and nearly had a clean sweep. As for Masanuki, his overall correct rate is still in good shape so he doesn’t need to worry too much. This win also helped our more luxury-impaired writers buoy their rates to kick off the 2023 season.

Here are the overall rankings from first to last, along with some parting bits of kamaboko wisdom:

Seiji: 17 wins / 4 losses (80.9% correct rate): “Consider the firmness and it’s A.”

P.K.: 21 wins / 6 losses (77.7% correct rate): “A suddenly shined as the better one!”

Go: 15 wins / 9 losses (62.5% correct rate): “A felt like something you would eat on New Year’s Day.”

Masanuki: 16 wins / 10 losses (61.5% correct rate): “The hardest one ever…”

Ahiruneko: 14 wins / 9 losses (60.8% correct rate): “B was just ordinary fish sausage.”

Yuichiro: 11 wins / 9 losses (55% correct rate): “I chose A because I didn’t like it.”

Takashi: 13 wins / 11 losses (54.1% correct rate): “I really did eat this kamaboko before!”

Mr. Sato: 12 wins / 11 losses (52.1% correct rate): “The aftertaste was different. You cannot fool the kamaboko king!”

In addition to carrying on as the kamaboko king, Mr. Sato’s past two wins have also elevated his correct rate to over 50 percent. Could this be a sign that things are finally turning around for our star writer? Find out next time on Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check!

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