I’ve seen some interesting foods while I’ve been in Japan and then there’s chikuwa. It’s so alien to me that I don’t even have anything to compare it to in the United States. (Probably because we don’t have anything even remotely similar.) Yet, this little food is quite common here, but what is it?
Chikuwa means ‘bamboo ring’ because of the shape it is when it’s cut open. This food is tube-shaped and is best described as ‘fish sausage’. Fish is ground into a paste and mixed with sugar, salt, egg whites, and other ingredients to make a type of dough, which is then wrapped around a stick to steam or broil. Once cooked it has a slightly spongy texture and is a little chewy. Though, it doesn’t have a very strong flavor.
Even so, many Japanese people will eat chikuwa right out of the package or perhaps stuff it with vegetables or cheese before eating it. It can also be cooked as part of oden, which makes sense since most foods stewed in oden broth have little flavor to begin with: tofu. And I’ve even seen chikuwa tossed into home-made miso soup. Yet, I can’t say whether or not I really like this food. It has little flavor and is kind of strange for me, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve eaten. I’m just not sure I’d go out of my way to find and eat this food.