Translated by Hilary Keyes
Japanese Encyclopedia: Nerimono (“Fish Paste Products”)
Written by k_yamamuro
Nerimono are found in many different dishes all across Japan with a great variety of flavors and ways of preparing them. But what exactly are they?
Nerimono (練り物) are foods that have been made from the minced and pressed meat of oceanic white-fleshed fish (such as snapper, pollock, flounder). These foods have a distinctive, slightly springy texture to them.
What’s a Good Example of a Nerimono?
Chikuwa is one example of a nerimono.
An assortment of nerimono.
It’s hard to summarize nerimono products in one word as each manufacturer has their own process, not to mention the various cooking or preparation techniques each one has. White-fish meat that has been minced, pressed flat and cooked is referred to as sasa kamaboko while this meat that has been rolled around a skewer before cooking, then had the skewer removed before being sold are called chikuwa. There are also steamed kamaboko and kanikama, which is perhaps best known overseas as “surimi” or imitation crab-meat.
White-fish meat that has been minced and boiled is standard in Japanese stews or hot pots, and include hanpen (a pounded fish cake), tsumire (fish balls), and naruto-maki, the thinly sliced pieces of white fish cake with a red swirl pattern, typically found in rāmen. Fried or deep-fried nerimono include Kagoshima prefecture’s specialty, satsuma-age, or fried kamaboko.
How do you Use and Eat Nerimono?
The best example of a dish involving nerimono is the cold weather favorite: oden.
The white item on the back of this dish is the nerimono hanpen.
Though the ingredients and soup base may differ region to region, almost everyone can agree that oden just isn’t oden without hanpen and chikuwa steeped in the flavors of the broth. Chikuwa is a great side dish to Japanese sake, where it is often served in thin slices with soy sauce and wasabi to dip it in. It’s also loved by children especially when the central hole of the chikuwa is filled with cheese. There are many types of sasa kamaboko and satsuma-age made from premium ingredients, making these two forms of nerimono quite popular as souvenirs.
There are places all across Japan that are well-known for their unique types of nerimono. From Odawara in Kanagawa prefecture, to Kagoshima prefecture, the majority of these places are port cities or sites with large fishing harbors. Because these cities have access to good quality ingredients, the nerimono available there are considered to be impeccable souvenirs, not to mention delicious.
Please try some of the great nerimono dishes when you visit Japan.