5 Famous Japanese Dagashi Snacks using Surimi Fish Paste
“Dagashi (駄菓子)” is a snack genre unique to Japan which is mostly made up of so-called junk foods. In fact, Dagashi snacks are so cheap, being sold for 10 (about 0.1 USD) to 100 yen (about 1 USD) in Japan, that they are especially popular with children.
Dagashi has several centuries of history and is said to have its roots in the snack foods that were made with cheap ingredients, such as cereals and starch syrup, in the Edo Period (Edo : 1603 to 1868), which were mainly enjoyed among commoners.
5 Japanese Surimi Snacks to Try
In modern times, Dagashi comes in numerous different varieties and each is quite unique. Among those, the ones using “Surimi (すり身)” or fish paste are especially popular with children and there are a number of famous products that have been loved over decades. For Dagashi beginners, today let me introduce such 5 Japanese Surimi snacks.
1. Kabayaki-san Taro (蒲焼さん太郎)
“Kabayaki-san Taro (蒲焼さん太郎)” is a Dagashi snack I used to buy a lot in my childhood, together with other similar Surimi snacks. Amazingly even now, the price of 10 yen hasn’t changed. As you may know, “Kabayaki (蒲焼)” usually refers to grilled eel, but the first ingredient of this Dagashi snack is walleye pollack.
The distinctive characteristic of Kabayaki-san Taro is its quite tough texture similar to fish jerky which makes kids savor the taste for a long period of time. In taste, this Surimi snack is salty sweet with a little bit of kick as it is flavored with Mirin sweet cooking rice wine, soy sauce, and Shichimi Togarashi.
2. Big Katsu (ビッグカツ)
“Big Katsu (ビッグカツ)” is one of the standard and most famous Dagashi snacks in Japan. Although “Katsu (カツ)” is the Japanese word for “Cutlet” whose main ingredient is usually pork, beef or chicken, this big “Katsu” is also made using walleye pollack.
However, the Japanese Surimi snack isn’t fishy at all and tastes pretty good, since it has a crispy deep-fried coating like real Katsu and is flavored with chicken extract, curry powder, and Tonkatsu sauce. In fact, Big Katsu was one of my favorite Dagashi snacks as a kid.
3. Yakiniku-san Taro (焼肉さん太郎)
As you can see in the photo above, this Dagashi snack, “Yakiniku-san Taro (焼肉さん太郎)” is the same type of Surimi snack as Kabayaki-san Taro. In other words, this Dagashi is pretty tough in texture, so the more you chew on it, the more the flavor and umami comes out and the better it tastes.
Although “Yakiniku (焼肉)” refers to the Japanese version of Korean barbecue, the first ingredient of this Yakiniku-san Taro is also walleye pollack. Instead, the fish paste is flavored with a real Yakiniku sauce like sauce.
4. Cut Yocchan (カットよっちゃん)
“Cut Yocchan (カットよっちゃん)“, also known as “Yocchan Ika (よっちゃんイカ)”, is one of the best Dagashi snacks using Surimi, which in fact has been widely enjoyed among Japanese children since several decades ago.
As the word “Ika (イカ)” means squid in Japanese, one of the main ingredients in Cut Yocchan is squid powder. Not only that, but fish paste is also used in that Surimi. This Japanese Dagashi snack has a soft chewy texture and is characterized by the vinegary taste that comes from the primary seasoning “Sanbaizu (三杯酢)” vinegar sauce.
5. Sudako-san Taro (酢だこさん太郎)
“Sudako-san Taro (酢だこさん太郎)“, together with Kabayaki-san Taro and Yakiniku-san Taro, is produced by “Kado (菓道)”, the leading Japanese Dagashi manufacturer known for their legendary corn puff Dagashi snack bars “Umaibo (うまい棒)“.
However, unlike Kabayaki-san Taro and Yakiniku-san Taro, this Japanese Surimi snack is tender and wet because of the primary seasoning, vinegar. “Sudako (酢だこ)” refers to vinegared octopus slices, but actually the ingredient of Sudako-san Taro doesn’t include octopus at all. In place of that, the Dagashi is made with fish paste or Surimi.