Japanese have many variations of fish cakes such as kamaboko 蒲鉾, Satsuma-age 薩摩揚げ etc. “Hanpen” 半片 is the most dedicate in taste and texture among Japanese fish cakes. It is usually a square shaped, white and light in texture, made of white fish meat (mostly Alaskan Pollock or すけとうだら) paste called “surimi” すり身, egg white and grated mountain yam 山芋. It is boiled rather than deep fried. It is a very common item in oden おでん but I did not have it when I made oden. Besides serving it as oden, I use hanpen in leu of “surimi” すり身 when making a New Year sweet rolled omelet called “datemaki” 伊達巻き. I just bought frozen hanpen in a Japanese grocery store and decided to serve it very simply.
First, I thaw one hanpen and cut it into 4 rectangles. Add 1 tsp of olive oil and thin slices of garlic (one medium clove) to a non-stick frying pan on a low flame. Slowly fry the garlic turning once until nicely brown (do not burn). Remove the garlic and set aside on a paper towel. I, then, place 4 pieces of hanpen and sauté for one minutes or until nicely light brown, turn it over and cook another 1 minute. I served with blanched broccoli rabe dressed with mustard soy sauce (Japanese mustard from a tube, sugar and soy sauce), topped with the garlic chips, which I set aside previously, and chiffonade of perilla. Add a small amount of soy sauce before eating. If you like you could just use butter and soy sauce instead of olive oil and garlic.
This is a very simple quick dish but a perfect accompaniment for a drink. The texture and taste of hanpen are so delicate but goes very well with olive oil, garlic and perilla.