Updated: May 13, 2020
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What is Narutomaki? (The White and Pink Thing on Ramen)

What's the white and pink emoji? What is the swirl thing in ramen? What does it taste like? Why is it a ramen topping? Find out below!

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Tokyo-style ramen
What's the white and pink swirl thing on ramen? It's called 'Narutomaki'鳴門巻 or just 'Naruto' for short. Narutomaki is a type of fish cake (called kamaboko in Japanese) that is a classic topping for ramen.

What do you mean by "fish cake?"

Narutomaki up close
Narutomaki is made by wrapping white fish paste colored with red food dye with undyed fish paste into a log shape. The fish paste log is then cooked with steam so that it solidifies and can be cut into thin slices.

What does narutomaki taste like?

Narutomaki has a fairly mild fishy taste and a chewy texture. It was originally included in ramen as a visual contrast to the brown colors of the soup, chashu, and menma that dominate the bowl. Since it's not really important for flavor, the majority of modern ramen shops no longer use naruto as a topping. However, it does taste good and is still loved by many!

Why is it called 'Naruto?'

Naruto Whirlpools (鳴門の渦潮)
There's apparently no written record of the origin of the name 'Narutomaki,' but the common theory is that the fish cake was given its name because the shape is reminiscent of the famous 'Naruto Whirlpools.'

Why is narutomaki used as a ramen topping?

Japanese soba with naruto as a topping
Naruto had been used as a topping for Japanese soba noodles since the end of the Edo period, some 150+ years ago, before ramen was even eaten in Japan. When ramen was first introduced to Japan from China in the early 1900s, it was called 'shina soba,' which means 'Chinese soba.' It's thought that since narutomaki was commonly used as a topping for Japanese soba, it was soon added to the new 'Chinese soba' as well.

Can I make my own narutomaki?

If you live somewhere that doesn't have a Japanese grocery store and you really want to make your own narutomaki, it's apparently possible. Here's a video I found that has good instructions:

In Closing

Thanks for reading! If you've enjoyed this article, check out our article about ramen:

Planning a trip to Japan? Take a ramen-making class while you're here:

I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.

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