Japan has a lot of ice cream flavors that, if you’re not familiar with the local cuisine, might be surprising when you first encounter them. Matcha/green tea is the most famous, but you can find sakura ice cream, sometimes with actual cherry blossoms mixed in, as well as azuki (sweet red bean) and kinako (roasted soybean powder) too.
This month, though, marks the debut of what might be Japan’s most unique ice cream flavor yet: kani. So what’s kani mean? Crab.
As you might have guessed, this idea is the brainchild/brainspawn of Kani Doraku, Japan’s most famous chain of crab specialty restaurants and also known for their giant moving robo crab signs. And make no mistake, Kani Doraku’s crab ice cream isn’t an ice cream dessert that’s shaped like a cartoony crab character, nor is it ice cream with the faintest trace of crab extract for marketing appeal while remaining imperceptible to the taste buds. This is straight-up ice cream with chunks of crab meat in it.
The Crab Ice Cream is being released to coincide with the start of crab season for Japan’s sannin matsuba crab, caught off the northwest shore of its main island of Honshu. Kani Doraku says it took about two years to develop, and that, “the most difficult part was figuring out how to [harmoniously] combine the flavor of crab with vanilla ice cream,” which isn’t exactly a surprise. They boast that the dessert uses sea salt from Christmas Island in the Republic of Kiribati, but while salty vanilla ice cream and salty crab are both delicious, asking people to put all three ingredients into their mouth at the same time is still a bold culinary proposition. Kani Doraku does say “We’re confident that it delicious beyond what you are imagining,” but that’s not exactly a high bar to clear.
Still, for those with the sufficient courage Crab Ice Cream will go on sale for 500 yen on November 6, offered exclusively at the souvenir section at the entrance to Kani Doraku’s main branch in Osaka’s Dotonbori district, at which point we’ll be able to find out where it ranks in comparison with Cup Noodle ice cream.
Kani Doraku (Dotonbori main branch) / かに道楽（道頓堀本店）
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Dotonbori 1-6-18
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
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