A taste of things to come?

Food insecurity is a constantly growing problem around the world, leading to a rethink about the ways we obtain and consume our food. But as luck would have it, we also live in an age of great technological advancements where soda can be made to taste like French fries and candy to taste like salmon, so even if some of our favorite foods become unavailable, there is hope that alternatives can be made.

Convenience store chain Family Mart has taken a proactive approach to this and began selling their Daitai Seafood Rice Bowl. The “daitai” in the name has a double meaning of both “vaguely” and “alternative” signifying that the seafood in this dish isn’t quite the real thing and is made with alternative ingredients.

With overfishing, climate change, and even political instability threatening the supply chain of a wide range of seafood, Family Mart has looked into some more sustainable sources to recreate the same dining experience for 498 yen (US$3.37) a bowl.

To find out if they succeeded, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun picked up a bowl and sampled each of the faux toppings. But first, let’s make a rundown of all the imitation seafood this bowl has to offer, starting with the “crab” which is made from crab-flavored kamaboko steamed fish paste sausage.

Kamaboko has also been forged into the likeness of a “grilled eel” chunk.

This small side of “sea urchin” is actually a surimi paste made from whitefish such as Alaska pollock.

The “ikura” salmon roe was crafted mainly from a combination of vegetable oil and salmon oil.

And finally, the ground fatty tuna known as “negitoro” was replicated using konnyaku powder and vegetable oil.

P.K. honestly felt that these alternative toppings were not as appetizing looking as actual seafood, but realizing that this may be the future of food, he tried to keep an open mind while sampling each of the toppings one by one.

The “crab” didn’t taste like crab at all, but this kind of imitation crab has been popular for a long time so it wasn’t strange either.

Using the same method to recreate grilled eel was much more daring. Although they made the kamaboko surprisingly soft, it still didn’t match the texture of real eel. That being said, the taste of grilled eel is largely dominated by its distinctive sauce, so this version was pretty palatable too.

P.K. thought Family Mart did a pretty remarkable job of simulating the taste and mouthfeel of sea urchin though. He felt that with small enough portions, you could fool someone into thinking this was the real thing.

Speaking of which, it was a little difficult to judge the “ikura” because there were only a few “eggs” to eat. From what P.K. could tell, however, they were very accurate too. The taste was likely helped by the use of salmon oil.

The “negitoro” looked the part and seemed to have the right texture when P.K. poked it with his chopsticks. But the moment he put some in his mouth, he could feel his entire body cringe in revulsion. Taste is often a matter of opinion and in our writer’s, this was just bad.

So, overall, these seafood alternatives ran the gamut of quality but P.K. found the entire bowl edible thanks in part to the vinegared rice and soy sauce. Had he eaten it more casually and not laser-focused on each topping, it might have been more pleasurable too. That being said, he would be hard-pressed to recommend this to anyone based on its taste alone.

Still, anyone interested in it as an example of sustainable food production might want to take a bowl for the spin. If this is destined to be the future of food, at least Family Mart is getting an early start on developing it into something better. Hopefully, the taste will have improved considerably by the time we’re all expected to eat grasshoppers and giant water bugs.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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