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Narutomaki: The Swirly White-Pink Japanese Fish Cake

Narutomaki: The Swirly White-Pink Japanese Fish Cake

Have you ever wondered what the white circle with a pink swirl is in Japanese dishes? Well, mystery solved. It’s a Japanese fish cake known as Narutomaki. 

This article will dig deep into the history of Narutomaki, its origins, how it tastes, how to prepare it, and why it is so popular as a ramen topping.

Where Does Narutomaki Come From?

Japan

The exact origin of narutomaki is unknown. The oldest detailed description of narutomaki was in a book called “Konnyaku Hyaku chin.” According to the book, people in the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan wrapped narutomaki in kelps or tofu skin.

However in the book it is written about as an established style of kamaboko. This implies that its invention was earlier, but the exact time is uncertain. Before achieving national prominence in Japan as a ramen topping, it was famous as a topping for soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles). 

The name narutomaki, however, is a little less mysterious. There is a small water channel called the Naruto Strait between Awaji Island and Shikoku in southern Japan.

This strait is extremely narrow at only 1.3 kilometers and when the tide moves water from the Pacific into the Seto Inland Sea, it produces swift currents, forming many large whirlpools twice a day.

These whirlpools’ shape supposedly inspired the food narutomaki; the swirl of pink and white in the fish cake center represents water’s power and beauty in the Naruto Straits.

What Does Narutomaki Taste Like?

Narutomaki with noodles
Photo Credit: Ttsuchitori

Narutomaki is made by wrapping undyed fish with white fish paste colored with red food dye into a log shape. The fish paste log is then cooked with steam to solidify and be cut into thin slices.

Narutomaki has a less fishy flavor and chewiness compared to ita kamaboko. The reason is that egg white and starch elements are mixed into the fish paste as binder elements, making the Narutomaki a little bit powdery and doughy, meaning the texture is closer to ramen noodles, creating a perfect combination.

Where Can I Find Narutomaki?

Street food Japan

Narutomaki can be found in any Japanese supermarket in Japan or abroad. You can often find it in the supermarket’s ramen toppings section, along with other popular ramen toppings such as Chashu (roasted pork) and sliced Negi (green onion).

If you’re looking for the most authentic narutomaki, then pay a visit to a town called Yaizu in Shizuoka Prefecture. This town produces 90% of all of Japan’s narutomaki.   

If you can’t find narutomaki anywhere near you, we got you covered with a quick 30-minutes recipe that includes all easy-to-find ingredients.

Narutomaki
Yield: 5

Narutomaki: The Swirly White-Pink Japanese Fish Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • Fresh white fish - 200g
  • Salt - 6g
  • Sugar - 6g
  • Mirin - 6g
  • Egg white - 1
  • Pink food coloring

Instructions

  1. Start by removing the skin and any fat from the fish and then rinse the fish under cold water. Use your hands to squeeze out any excess water from the fish
  2. In a food processor, put fish, salt, sugar, mirin, and an egg white. Process everything together until it forms a homogeneous paste
  3. Divide the paste in half then take one of the halves and spread it over a plastic wrap to create a 19 by 15 cm rectangle.
  4. Dye the other half of the paste using pink food coloring
  5. Put the layer of pink paste over the non-dyed paste, leaving one centimetre at the top and the bottom of the rectangle free
  6. Roll the fish cake carefully and tightly, making sure you don't get any air-pockets and seal with saran wrap
  7. Put the fish-cake roll into a steamer and steam it for about 15 minutes
  8. Let it cool, remove the saran wrap and then cut segments off into 2cm thick circles. You can optionally serrate the edges using a knife for effect.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 80Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 502mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g

If you’re a ramen lover, then consider giving a narutomaki a shot. The pleasing aesthetic of this fish-cake adds so much to your bowl.

Are you interested in Japanese food? Discover the alternative side of eating out in Japan or find out about the delicious Japanese Kakigōri shaved ice desert.

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