What’s pink and swirly and processed all over? If it’s floating atop a bowl of ramen, it’s probably a slice of narutomaki, the iconic Japanese fishcake.
Inspired by whirlpools in the Naruto Strait, these chewy, bouncy slices represent a formidable natural phenomenon. The swirl in the center of each piece is emblematic of the spiraling ocean water that forms pools between Shikoku and Awaji Island every six hours or so. Located along the Shikoku coast, the whirlpools are visible for an hour or two at a time. While it’s best to visit the whirlpools in the spring or summer, when the waters are more intense, narutomaki can be enjoyed year-round.
This processed roll is primarily made of frozen surimi (processed, pureed whitefish), while the pink swirl comes from food coloring. Invented in the 1800s and prepared by slicing and steaming, narutomaki has a history of gracing traditional noodle soups, such as ramen and soba.
The pink-spiraled slice is a striking visual atop Japanese ramen, but noodles aren’t the only platform showcasing the fish cake. Over a dozen styles of narutomaki emoji exist across services such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and Microsoft. The narutomaki icon joined Unicode 6.0 in 2010 under the name “Fish Cake With Swirl.” Admittedly, the sweet, fishy taste and buoyant mouthfeel of fishcake isn’t universally popular. However, anyone with a keyboard can reap the benefits of narutomaki’s global virtual presence. Just type the shortcode :fish_cake:
Need to Know
Narutomaki is served in ramen shops and widely available at Asian supermarkets. Slice, steam, and eat (or simply admire).