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Narutomaki: What Is It, How To Make It, and Recipes To Try

Narutomaki: What Is It, How To Make It, and Recipes To Try
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Japanese cuisine has been gaining fans not just in Asia, but also all over the United States. People especially like the umami flavor in their ramen and the toppings they can put on it. Among the number of toppings you can put, one that stands out is the narutomaki, which can easily be recognized by its pink spiral pattern. If you don’t know yet, narutomaki is a type of kamaboko (or fish cake) in Japan.

But there’s more to it than just being a famous and distinctive-looking topping for your ramen dish. If you’re interested in finding more about this iconic Japanese topping, then hang around and find out what it is and how to make it. We also prepared a list of recipes that pairs up nicely with narutomaki. Don’t worry, you can effortlessly create these at home for your next Japanese cuisine venture!

What Is Narutomaki: Origin, Taste, and More

shoyu ramen with narutomaki, What Is Narutomaki

Flickr | Guilhem Vellut

Let’s review everything you already know about this pink swirly food called narutomaki. Narutomaki is a Japanese fish cake and it is often used as a ramen topping. Unlike what others initially thought, its name isn’t derived from the famous manga and anime series Naruto. It’s actually named after the Naruto whirlpools situated in the Naruto Strait in Japan, where the Ōnaruto Bridge or Great Naruto Bridge also stands (yes, it actually exists outside anime and manga!). You can imagine how its pink swirls resemble the real-life whirlpools.

But what exactly is it? Narutomaki (also called naruto) is a variant of fish cake made of filleted and minced meat (surimi in Japanese) and other seafood like shrimp and squid. Now, what you don’t know is that it’s not solely made for shoyu ramen dishes. Japanese also put it on their salads and main entrées. In fact, it can be enjoyed with every meal as a side dish.

Even though it’s made from various seafood like shrimp and squid, narutomaki has a mildly fishy taste. It also has a stringy and chewy texture that goes well with the ramen noodles’ already chewy texture. This is also the reason why it pairs up well with ramen noodles. Alongside this, it also creates an appealing and attractive dish by introducing a pop color which then contrasts well with ramen’s overpowering brown color from chashu (roasted pork), menma (a brown condiment made from fermented bamboo shoots), and dashi broth (a brown-colored stock used in Japanese cooking).

How To Use Narutomaki in Cooking

Naruto is widely popular overseas, not just in Japan. In fact, you might be having it on your ramen bowls way before knowing what it is! Nevertheless, here’s a list of other dishes that go well with narutomaki.

  • Chicken Udon Noodle SoupThis chicken noodle soup is good even without the pink swirly fish cakes, but the addition can make this dish more appetizing to look at! And if you love the chewy texture of udon, amp the chewiness a bit more with the naruto!
  • Traditional Japanese Miso Soup Not only is naruto good for udon noodle soup, but it also pairs well with this miso soup recipe! This dish is so easy to make that you’ll finish cooking it in under 15 minutes. Delight in the combined chewy texture of naruto and the soft tofu in this recipe!
  • Easy Ramen Stir FryJust because this stir-fried ramen is affordable and quick doesn’t mean you shouldn’t garnish it with a few pieces of naruto! This is different from the usual fish cake-ramen combo. Don’t doubt this combination, though! It also pairs well with dry dishes, not just with soup bases. Besides, it’s one good way to add meat to quick and easy meals like this.

READ ALSO: 40 Best Ramen Toppings for Your Homemade Noodle Soup

How to Make Narutomaki: The Swirly White Pink?

narutomaki on wooden chopping board, How to Make Narutomaki

Making naruto fish cake isn’t an easy feat. But if you’re willing to learn, then making one from scratch is absolutely rewarding and satisfying. Not to mention, it’s definitely less pricey than the pre-packaged ones. You’ll also yield more fish cakes this way!

To make this pink swirl in ramen, you’ll need fresh white fish like cod and other seafood we mentioned earlier. As for the pink swirl, it’s made from dyed fish paste as well. Flatten them on top of the white base and roll. From here, it will look like a log, but once sliced, it will take on the appearance of a Naruto whirlpool.

But to be exact here’s a list of ingredients you will need:

  • 200 grams surimi
  • ⅕ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • ⅕ teaspoon sugar
  • ⅕ teaspoon mirin
  • pink food coloring

Here’s how you make narutomaki: 

  1. Fillet and remove fats from the fish. You can use your electric knife for easy filleting. Then rinse the filleted fish in cold water. Squeeze out excess water using your hands.
  2. Get your food processor. Combine all the ingredients except the pink dye. Continue processing until it forms a paste.
  3. Divide the paste into two. Get the first half and create a 19 by 15 centimeter-rectangle by flattening and spreading the fish paste on a plastic wrap.
  4. Get the other half. Dye it in pink food coloring and flatten it as the first half.
  5. Put pink paste over the white paste. It’s important to leave one centimeter of white fish paste at the top and bottom.
  6. Roll the fish cake. Do it carefully while making sure there are no air pockets as you roll.
  7. Put fish cakes in a steamer. You can also use your bamboo steamer and steam for 15 minutes.
  8. Let cool and cut. Remove the cling wrap first and start cutting two-centimeter circles. You may cut diagonally if you want slightly bigger and longer slices of fish cakes.

Where Can I Buy Narutomaki?

If you’re too busy and have no time to make your own narutomaki, then you can just buy these pink swirls instead. You can easily find narutomaki in any Japanese supermarket or Asian groceries along with other Japanese and ramen necessities like shoyu, chashu, and sliced negi (chopped or shredded green onion). If you visit these establishments, you’ll discover a wide selection of pre-made narutomaki you can buy. Pre-sliced or whole logs, you can choose what suits your needs better! Although, we suggest you get the whole log instead of the pre-sliced one so you can customize how thin you want your fish cake to be.

READ ALSO: What Is Oshinko? Learn All About It and How To Make Oshinko Roll

Narutomaki Is A Good and Colorful Addition To Your Ramen

Eat narutomaki on its own or with classic ramen noodles. You can also upgrade it a bit more by adding it to your salads and stir-fried noodle dishes. Undeniably though, the classic route with miso, shio, and ramen is one of the best ways to enjoy this fish cake. Any way you want to enjoy this kamaboko, we’re sure that it’s not just your mouth that will be feasting on it, but your eyes as well!

Want to learn more about narutomaki, share your own experiences with this unique ingredient, or discover new recipe ideas? Join the discussion in the Ingredients Spotlight forum section!

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