Monday, September 13, 2010
Natori Fish Almond Mix
There are a lot of disgusting looking dried up seafood snacks in Japan which I have always sworn I would not touch with the proverbial 10-foot pole... then I started doing this blog and got the bright idea of doing reviews of the weirder things which I have shied away from. I figured that I could stretch my palate a little and push the boundaries of what I'll eat, at least a little.
While perusing all of the odder looking bits, I considered the leathery bits of octopus and the stringy bits of eel. Knowing I don't like those types of seafood at all convinced me that trying them would be a pointless exercise in handing out "very unhappy" ratings. I decided that I would try the omnipresent dried fish snacks because, though I'm not a fan of fish, I don't hate it. At the very least, it might be "so-so", and this version with almonds might go down a bit more easily because they're my favorite nut.
You can find dried fish snacks nearly everywhere in Japan. They are particularly popular as otsumami or snacks marketed to be consumed with beverages (and alcoholic ones in particular). I got this at Lawson 100 shop for 100 yen ($1.17). It's a 24 gram (.85 oz.) bag and the entire thing has 126 calories and 9.3 grams of protein. These are pretty healthy, and I was once told by a student that this was the only snack she was allowed to eat as a child because she had bad teeth and her mother didn't want her eating anything with sugar.
I was all fine on an intellectual level to try these for review, and then I poured them onto a tissue to take a picture before eating. Seeing the little heads that had broken free, and the bits of internal organs through their dried out transparent bodies started to really turn my stomach. It's not eating fish that is the problem so much as eating every little bit of the fish. I had some serious second thoughts about my choice. At least the squid cheese strings don't look like squid, and the dried out octopus bits are chopped up and don't have eyes and veins. I was really regretting this choice.
I didn't even want to touch them, but I rounded up a few fish and a few almonds, closed my eyes, and put them in my mouth. Unsurprisingly, it tasted super fishy with only the slightest hint of almond. They aren't very salty, but there was a hint of sweetness. This is no surprise since the third ingredient is actually sugar (the first is almonds, and the second, sardines or "iwashi"/いわし). There are also sesame seeds studding the little dried up corpses, but the fish taste is so overpowering that the seeds and nuts flavors are largely drowned out.
This wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great. If I were starving to death and had to eat these, it wouldn't be the end of the world, but I can't see enjoying it casually as a snack or craving it. It is intensely fishy, and there is something peculiar about sugar and fish as a combination. I'll admit that I took one bite and threw the rest away, but that's mostly because looking at them made me queasy. I could have forced down the rest, but I saw no reason to do so.
If you'd like to share your experiences with weird foods and enter a contest for a chance to win a silly prize, please read this post and make a comment.