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Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Years Post One

The first of a few posts about New Year's.  As a person of both American and Japanese heritage, there has been a fusion of the celebration that we choose for celebrating the New Year.  In the Japanese culture, New Years is of great importance in affirming the communal connections of family and friends, both from the past and for the upcoming year.  It is also a time when we take some extra time for food and drink.

Although we eat fish cake throughout the year, this is the one time of the year we break out the home made version.  For many year's we used the store made 'surimi' based products, but, about five year's ago, my sister and I started making a traditional recipe. I can remember the first year, it literally brought tears to my dad's eyes, as it took him back to his long ago gone mother's table. Simply put, it is just white mild fish ground to a paste and combined with potato or arrowroot starch, seasoned and boiled carrots and burdock root.  We then form the paste into patties and deep-fry.

Here we are deep-frying in a mix of soybean and safflower oil, other oils that work well would be peanut and canola if blended with one of the other three mentioned. Roughly 2" in diameter and 3/4" thick, they are fried to a golden brown. Drained we end up with this

These can be used whole or sliced in soups, stews or eaten plain with maybe a shoyu and sesame oil dipping sauce. I also like them in a sandwich with some slaw and a little BBQ sauce. Back to the 'old man', like I said, the first time we made them, he had tears in his eyes, that year, we spoke a little more about grandma, about the family and how we had moved away from those times.  It is the greatest thing about food and how it transcends time, it allows us to smell and taste those times we can never return to.  My dad is gone now, but, this dish has earned it's spot, it is now, new and yet, once again, a tradition of my family.

Satsuma Age Kamaboko

11 ounces mild white fish (cod, sea bass, pollock)
2 ounces burdock root (coarsely shredded then chopped)
2 ounces carrots (coarsely shredded then chopped)
1/4 cup dashi (bonito broth)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce (shoyu)
1 tsp sake
1 large egg white
5 tbs potato starch
2 tsp a.p. flour

1. Saute burdock root and carrots in 2T oil, add broth and sugar saute until all liquid is absorbed. Add soy sauce and continue saute until fluid is absorbed. Allow to cool.

2. Finely chop fish into small chunks then add to suribashi (grinding bowl) or food processor and grind to fine paste. This should be a slightly coarse paste. Incorporate sake thoroughly, then incorporate egg white thoroughly.

3. Sift potato starch and flour together. Add to fish paste 1 tablespoon at a time, combine by kneading into fish paste. Thoroughly incorporate one tablespoon at a time. Fold in veggie mix last.

4. Form into small patties, approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter, 3/4 inch thick and deep fry or pan fry until crispy and golden.


  1. What's burdock root? What does it taste like?

  2. It is a woody root from a plant in the aster family. To some it has a slight sweetness with an earthy background. I think it tastes like a muddy stick. Oddly, it works well in this dish and as a seasoning and is highly regarded as a seasoning. IMO, eaten on it's own, it is like chewing on a muddy stick.