Hamo: An Osaka Summer Delicacy

Every place has its own unique seasonal foods and dishes. In Osaka and Kyoto, one such food that people eat during the summer is hamo, or pike conger. This fish is not common at all in Tokyo and if you live in Tokyo, you might not have ever heard of hamo!

A Summertime Delicacy, Hamo

As is the case with things that are rare and unusual, if you can find hamo outside of Kansai, it is likely to be very expensive. That being said, this is a very common fish in the Kansai region. Specifically, the ones from Awajishima are the best.

Hamo is a very unique fish. Its long body is roughly 1m long and is similar to an eel (unagi) or conger eel (anago). The biggest difference between them though, is that hamo have very sharp teeth and have been known to sometimes bite people. In fact, the name “Hamo” stems from the old Japanese word “食む”, meaning eat or bite. 

hamo aka pike conger
Fishmongers cut the hamo’s head so that it will not bite people. I feel sad looking at them though…

Also, their vitality is amazing. After they are caught, they can be carried alive into Kyoto, meaning they can survive more than a day without almost any water.  

Hamo becomes particularly tasty right after the rainy season and is an indispensable food during several important festivals, namely two of the biggest festivals in Kansai: Tenjin Matsuri, the biggest festival in Osaka, and Gion Matsuri, the biggest festival in Kyoto.


A Conger Course 

Hamo is only in season in summer through early fall. Because of this small window of availability, not many restaurants specialize in it. However, in Osaka, it is not unusual for fugu restaurants to serve hamo as a seasonal special menu.

Hamo has many small thin bones. So, chefs have to meticulously and carefully remove the bones, all while trying to not tear the flesh, which requires a lot of skills. 

The most common way to enjoy them is by boiling, commonly called yubikiBecause conger eel has a delicate flavor, it is often served with a vinegary miso (it reminds me of a very mild mustard) or ume paste, so as not to overpower the naturally light flavor of the fish. It is particularly nice in summer. 

Yubiki; boiled hamo (conger pike)

Hamo tempura is also very nice. If you live in Kansai, you’ve very likely encountered a tempura of this pike. 

Tempura with other vegetables too!
Hamo zushi
Hamo zushi…Yummy!!

The best way I think is nabe. The delicate flavor of the broth is particularly nice which is often accompanied by onion as the sweetness of onion compliments the taste of the pike, making them an excellent combination.  

Hamo nabe
Hamo nabe

If you are ever in Osaka when hamo is in season, it is definitely worth a try! Since the fish doesn’t have a very strong flavor, I think it will please most palettes. Instead of junk food like takoyaki, consider these kinds of seasonal specialties that are truly at the heart of Osaka culture.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *