How to make Japanese Ramen Fish Cakes: Narutomaki [Full Recipe]

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  September 1, 2022

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Making naruto is similar to most other fish cakes, but it has a log shape and a pink swirly center with textured edges.

This is a simple recipe, so it’s great to use, even for those who’ve never attempted to make fish cakes before!

Narutomaki ramen fish cakes recipe
Shoyu ramen with narutomaki

Narutomaki Japanese Fish Cake Recipe

Joost Nusselder
Narutomaki is a Japanese fish cake shaped like a small log with a rubbery and chewy texture. The cake has a pink swirl in the middle, which is its defining characteristic. It tastes like fish and it's made of minced fish (surimi). This easy recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make.
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 1 log

Ingredients
  

Ingredients for one log

  • 7 ounces fresh white fish Alaska pollock or blue whiting
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • pink food coloring

Instructions
 

  • Grab a large pot and fill it about halfway with water.
  • Bring it to a simmer, then place a steamer basket over it.
  • To prepare the fish, remove, skin and debone the fish.
  • Wash the fish in a colander and also remove any fat and remaining bones.
  • Squeeze out excess water by using your hands.
  • Now chop the fish into smaller pieces, then place them in a food processor.
  • Add egg white, sugar, salt, mirin, and cornstarch, and blend until you get a smooth fish paste.
  • Place half of the paste into a smaller bowl. Add several drops of pink food coloring and mix until the paste is pink or light red. Set aside.
  • Line your counter with plastic wrap and spread out the remaining white paste in a rectangle shape.
  • Now measure half an inch from the border of the white rectangle and then place the pink paste on top of the white one.
  • Using the plastic wrap, start rolling the fish cake into a log shape, making sure to roll tightly. The roll should be pretty thin.
  • Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so it can stiffen.
  • Now put the fish cake roll into the steamer and let it steam for 15 minutes.
  • Once ready, let it cool in ice water for 15 minutes .so the cake completely sets Then, remove the plastic wrap.
  • Use a knife with a serrated edge to cut the fish cake and give it those zig-zag edges.

Notes

For the best results, use a non-oily white fish, preferably Alaska pollock.
Also, make sure to remove the fatty bits of the fish, or else your paste will be greasy.
If you have a bamboo mat with triangular pieces, roll the plastic-covered cake on the mat and you’ll achieve the zig-zag edge. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Cooking tips

If you’re looking for a delicious narutomaki recipe, look no further! This dish is simple to make and packed with flavor. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your narutomaki:

  1. Be sure to use fresh ingredients. Narutomaki is all about the freshness of the fish, so be sure to use fresh white fish. You can experiment with different white fishes though, if you can’t find pollock
  2. You can’t used canned fish because the taste will be way too fishy and it will also be too mushi to make into cakes.
  3. Serve immediately, or keep it in the fridge for 9 days. If you want to freeze it for later, do so right after it has cooled down.

Also read: these are the 10 best ramen fish cakes to use

Variations and substitutes

Favorite Asian Recipes
Favorite Asian Recipes

Narutomaki can be very easily made! The ingredients required are basically a fish blend with a small amount of finely chopped vegetables, flavoring, and cornflour to bind the fish meat together.

Unlike regular western-style fish cakes, Japanese ones don’t use flour or pureed potatoes for binding.

The vegetables blended into the fish paste can differ, and you can use whatever you have in your home.

You can also use peas, green beans, mushrooms, shallots, and lotus roots. They all should be chopped and grounded.

At times, not even vegetables are incorporated, so you can also leave them out.

If you’d like to try raw fish, I’ve written this post on the types of sushi fish, which are best for raw consumption, and which have the best taste.

You could even leave out the pink food coloring, although it wouldn’t be a narutomaki in that case because you wouldn’t get the swirly interior.

Mirin substitute for narutomaki

If you can’t find mirin in time to make your dish, you can substitute that too. Just use a little sake and sugar, or if you don’t have that, dry white wine in the same amount would also work, but you would have to use 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to counterbalance the acidity.

My favorite mirin to use for fish cakes is just this cheap but effective Kikkoman Manjo Aji Mirin:

Kikkoman Manjo Aji Mirin

(view more images)

How to store leftover narutomaki

If you’ve just made a whole batch, it’s a shame not to store and use it. Luckily, you can easily freeze the rest and just cut off parts as you need them.

You can also store it in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 9 days.

Read our article here on how to store and freeze kamaboko, narutomaki and other fish cakes

Conclusion

Narutomaki is great to buy, but you can’t beat a freshly made log in your ramen. Try it and you’ll always want to keep some on hand.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.