Strange Snacks of the World: Japanese Fish Sausage


Strange fish products are often much tastier than they sound (like prawn cheese in a tube and dried wild fish). Japanese fish sausage is not one of those snacks. On the upside, it is so bouncy you could play paddle ball with it.

Poke around Japanese grocery Sunrise Mart long enough and you’ll come across all sorts of wonderful things, like the gigantic, monster scallions called negi, a kalydescope of misos, and plenty of products derived from fish, most of them delicious. Find the little package of fish sausage next to the fish roe in the refrigerated section. Judging from its hard and bouncy (very, very bouncy) texture, you might expect something a like fish cake.

Pull a tightly wrapped specimen out of the pack, and try as you might, it is hard to overlook the resemblance to a very small, very skinny, condom-wrapped penis. “This sausage may contain tiny black pieces,” notes the package helpfully. “These are fragments of fish skin.” The snack is like bologna made of fish, formed into a tube. It just barely crosses the fishy fish line into unpleasantness, but it’s the sugary taste that’s off-putting. And indeed, sugar figures prominently in the ingredient list, after pollack, water, cornstarch, soy bean oil, and rape [seed] oil.

Fish sausages are very popular in Japan, having rebounded from an image problem in the ’70s, when they were sweetened with cyclamate, which turned out to be carcinogenic, and a cause of testicular atrophy, whoops.