Sometimes, you just can’t beat Japanese cuisine. With such a wide variety of dishes on offer, and all sorts of intriguing tastes to tickle your taste buds, there’s an endless supply of cuisine to keep you satisfied.
Even if you’re a pretty adventurous eater, you’re probably yet to try every type of Japanese cuisine. Narutomaki is one popular Japanese food that’s often overlooked by keen eaters, but it’s definitely one that should be tried at least once.
This unique food is one of the main ingredients in many popular Japanese dishes, and it can really expand your appreciation for this timeless cuisine. So, what does it taste like, and how is it used in Japanese cuisine?
We’re here to pique your interest in this unique ingredient and make you come away with a whole new appreciation for this iconic food. Let’s get started!
What Is Narutomaki?
Narutomaki is a type of cured fish (kamaboko) that looks just as good as it tastes. This cured fish (or fish cake) is a type of minced fish paste that’s famous for its classic pink central swirl and jagged edges.
Narutomaki was first created in the 1800s, and today, it’s often used as a type of decorative (and tasty!) featured in noodle soups and some stews.
It’s thought to have been named after the whirlpools that could be found in Naruto Strait, and people used to eat it inside a variety of different wrappings, such as kelp and even tofu skin.
Although it’s thought to date back to the 1800s, there’s reason to believe that narutomaki existed long before this.
The term ‘naruto’ was mentioned as far back as 794-1185, but it’s unclear whether or not this was referring to the type of narutomaki we know and love today.
Narutomaki is a type of kamaboko (fish cake), and there are multiple ways to cook this signature dish, including:
There are also several other varieties of narutomaki, including ita kamaboko, jakoten, tuske age, hanpen, gansu, and tsumire.
What Does Narutomaki Taste Like?
Narutomaki is celebrated for its delicate texture and a taste that can be likened to gefilte fish. Surprisingly, narutomaki doesn’t have an overbearing smell of fish, which may be a benefit to some.
Narutomaki is made from various types of seafood, including squid and shrimp, but still its fishy taste is rather mild. It does, however, have a slightly chewy and stringy texture which may be unappealing to some.
What Is Narutomaki Made Of?
Narutomaki is made up of a type of white fish paste that’s shaped into a log, and usually steamed. A mixture of fish creates that fish paste, and once steamed, narutomaki takes on a solid shape and texture.
The processed narutomaki roll is usually made of both minced and filleted fish, and the distinctive pink swirl in the centre is made of food coloring.
Narutomaki also contains a few binders to help it hold together, such as egg whites and cornstarch. This is what gives narutomaki a slightly dough-like texture that can be easily molded into other shapes.
Narutomaki Vs Kamaboko: What’s The Difference?
Narutomaki is actually a type of kamaboko, but both of these foods can be eaten as a topping, an ingredient in a main dish, or even as a snack. Many years ago, the two were also consumed interchangeably.
Since they were first created, Japanese fish cakes have evolved significantly. There are dozens of varieties of fish cake on offer, all of which are different from each other. Although narutomaki is a type of kamaboko, there are a few differences between the two:
Shape is one of the biggest differences between narutomaki and kamaboko. Kamaboko usually maintains a slightly semi-circular shape, while narutomaki has jagged edges that resemble cogs.
This is what makes narutomaki a more popular decorative feature in many dishes, and it pairs well with other fun toppings.
Commercially produced narutomaki usually contains more binding agents than kamaboko, such as cornstarch. This often gives narutomaki a slightly more dough-like texture and mouthfeel compared to kamaboko.
The taste of narutomaki can also vary significantly depending on where you buy it from. Some varieties may have a stronger fish-like flavor, while others may be more sugary and salty.
Compared to narutomaki, kamaboko also relies more on its fish meat to give it its flavor and texture, which means it’s often not as springy as narutomaki. This is also why narutomaki is more popular as a snack or as a popular ingredient in a meal compared to kamaboko.
How To Use Narutomaki?
There are many ways to use narutomaki, and you may prefer to enjoy it on its own, or in your favorite bowl of ramen noodles! You can even add narutomaki to other dishes such as salads or a stir fry to add a truly unique flavor and texture experience.
However you enjoy your narutomaki, we’re sure you won’t be able to get enough of it! Here are just a few dishes that pair well with narutomaki:
- Chicken Udon Noodle Soup: This Asian-inspired soup adds a welcome twist to the classic chicken noodle soup. Chicken Udon Noodle Soup is made with a variety of chicken, garlic, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, and udon noodles. Although our favorite swirly fish cakes are a great addition to this soup, it still tastes just as good without them! It also adds an extra layer of texture which many enjoy.
- Ramen Stir Fry: You can also take your favorite ramen stir fry to new heights by adding in a few pieces of narutomaki to garnish it! Just adding a few simple pieces of narutomaki adds even more flavor to this traditionally quick and flavorful meal.
- Miso Soup: Who doesn’t love miso soup? Now you can enjoy it in a whole new way by adding narutomaki into the mix! Miso soup is simple, quick and delicious, and adding a few pieces of naruto to the meal gives it some extra color and texture that you’ll love.
Where Can You Buy Narutomaki?
Although many people prefer to make their own narutomaki at home, it can be a pretty time-consuming task.
Thankfully, you can also buy these delicious fish cakes from most Japanese and Asian grocery stores, and you’ll usually find it alongside other staples such as sliced negi and shoyu!
Depending on the store, you may also find a large selection of pre-made narutomaki that comes in logs or pre-sliced, making it even easier to add this delicious fish cake to your meals!
However, we’d suggest buying narutomaki as a log, as this gives you more freedom to choose how thick or thin you want your slices to be.
Narutomaki is a popular addition to many Japanese dishes, however, it’s still yet to gain the recognition it deserves in the West.
This fish cake can be added to all sorts of soups and stews, and it’s a quick, simple way to add some extra color, flavor and texture to your meals!
Even if you’re not a big fan of fish, you’re sure to love this delicately flavored and delightful chewy fish cake. Don’t forget, you can also enjoy narutomaki on its own as a healthy, tasty snack!