Nippon Ham is getting ready to debut a new tuna sashimi alternative.

Nippon Ham’s name is pretty self-explanatory. “Nippon” is one of the Japanese words for Japan (yes, there’s more than one), and “ham” is, well, ham. So obviously Nippon Ham is a Japanese company that sells ham and other pork products, right?

Yes, but the company’s product lineup extends beyond ham, sausage, and bacon. They also sell beef and chicken, and also frozen pizza and Chinese dishes. And now Nippon Ham is getting set to enter a whole new field by selling “tuna sashimi.”

Now you might be skeptical about how much a company with such a meaty history knows about making good sashimi. Actually, though, that’s sort of a moot point, because Nippon Ham’s sashimi isn’t made out of fish or ham, it’s made out of plants.

Seen in the video above is Nippon Ham’s newly developed plant-based tuna, which contains no animal-based ingredients and is made primarily with konnyaku, a firm starch gelatin made from yam. Nippon Ham began selling a plant-based fried fish in the spring of last year, but now they’re trying their hand at recreating the look, texture, and taste of maguro sashimi (slices of raw tuna).

Plant-based sashimi is likely to be a more difficult sell, however. Sashimi is eaten raw, usually following a modest dip into soy sauce and wasabi, which means that the flavor and mouthfeel inherent to the fish itself are more distinctly felt than they are with a fried fish fillet. As such, Twitter reactions to Nippon Hams plant-based tuna sashimi have been mixed, with some seeming cautiously optimistic and others seeing this as a dystopian dining development.

“That ain’t maguro!”
“I think it’s great that they’re trying. I hope someday it’ll be something that’s cheap and delicious.”
“That isn’t maguro. It’s just bizarre.”
“I’d give it a try.”
“We’re now living in the age where sashimi is made out of plants.”
“This reminds me of the ‘bio maguro’ they had in the Ninja Slayer anime.”

As for why Nippon Ham is bringing this to market, the company cites the growing global market for plant-based meat and fish substitutes, and plans to position its plant-based tuna sashimi as a source of protein that will remain sustainable even if fishery resources become strained. At the same time, the company acknowledges that with Japan having a small number of strict vegetarians and no widely adhered to indigenous religious taboos against eating fish or meat, it will likely take time for plant-based sashimi to catch on. Because of that, initial sales will not be directly to consumers. Instead, Nippon Ham will begin offering its plant-based sashimi to restaurants this April, and is hoping to first win over individual diners and expand from there.

Source: FNN Prime Online, via Livedoor News via Jin, Sankei Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
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