Ron Rogness , May 16, 2024

GAPP visits Okuhara Foods

 

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit GAPP Partner Okuhara Foods while I was attending an American Fisheries Advisory Committee meeting in Honolulu. Okuhara Foods is a family owned and operated company that for over 75 years has proudly served Hawaiians (and visitors to Hawaii) “Hawaii’s Original Fishcake” made exclusively from Wild Alaska Pollock! GAPP has partnered with Okuhara Foods in four different projects that have communicated the sustainability and quality attributes of Wild Alaska Pollock with new packaging and on their website and in social media posts.

On my visit, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand a truly family-run operation. Three members of third generation of Teruyas – Lindsay and her brothers Jayce and Micah now run the business. As they state, “We are three siblings from Hawaii committed to preserving the art of making kamoboko.” Most of the approximately 25 employees have worked for Okuhara Foods for decades.

For those of you who might not be aware of what exactly a traditional “fishcake” is, it is not what many think of, which is a pan-fried item made with white fish combined with bread crumbs and seasonings. Rather, their traditional steamed Japanese fishcakes takes the high-quality Wild Alaska Pollock surimi paste and cuts it with a powerful bowl cutter to unravel the protein. The surimi is then mixed with salt, seasonings, sugar, starch and water to create an emulsified smooth paste. The experienced people at Okuhara Foods then adjust the recipe and process to adjust to the surimi they are using to bring out the flavors in their Kamoboko product. As the surimi is heated, a meshed network forms resulting in the signature elastic, springy texture, with each cooking method creating its own aromas and textures.

The products Okuhara food sells include “Kamoboko” which is a steamed fish cake, “gobo,” a fried fishcake, “Uzamaki,” a steamed fish cake that is rolled, creating the signature colorful swirl, “Chikawa,” a roasted fish cake and “Naruto” another form of steamed fish cake.

Packaged Uzumaki and Chikawa that prominently features “Wild Alaska Pollock” on the front

It was an extraordinarily educational experience to visit the plant and see the production process, and also extremely gratifying to see a third generation of a family so dedicated to preserving the tradition of making traditional Japanese-style fishcakes that was started by their grandfather. The pride they take in preserving that tradition is obvious, and their warm Hawaiian hospitality was most appreciated.

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