Often known as fish cakes, Nerimono are the key ingredients for Oden (Japanese Fish Cake Stew). These salty, flavorful fish products are made from white fish paste and have a springy texture.
The fish cake product in oden is called nerimono (練り物, literally “kneaded things”). Oden (おでん) is a popular Japanese one-pot stew (nabemono) featuring fish cakes in dashi-based broth and sometimes refers to the assortment of fish cakes.
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What Is Nerimono
Nerimono (練り物) is a blanket term for fish cakes and fish balls that are made of surimi (すり身 “ground flesh”). You may be more familiar with individual nerimono names such as kamaboko, chikuwa, hanpen, and satsuma-age.
Surimi is made of white fish—typically Alaska pollock and Pacific whiting—that is pulverized into a thick paste and mixed with seasonings and other ingredients. Then, the paste is formed into various shapes, such as balls, sticks, tubes, and cakes, in different sizes. Depending on the variety, the fish cakes and fish balls are steamed, grilled, boiled, or deep-fried.
Since Oden is a popular dish, you can buy a variety pack of nerimiono for oden. These packages usually include a packet of concentrated broth. I typically buy one of these packages and individual packets of my favorites.
The fish cakes only need a few minutes to warm up in the broth. It’s a convenient ready-to-eat food during the wintertime.
What Does It Taste Like
These foods have a distinctive, slightly springy texture. The base is white fish, so the taste is mild, but many have additional seasonings and fillings, so each variety tastes different.
Types Of Nerimono
You can find regional styles of nerimono that are unique to the local prefectures. Some port cities well-known for Nerimono include Odawara in Kanagawa and Kagoshima prefecture, where they have access to fresh seafood and processing plants.
Check this website to see the many shapes and sizes of Nerimono. Here’s just a sample of the many types of nerimono.
- Chikuwa 竹輪 (fish cake tube)
- Ganmodoki がんもどき (fried tofu fritters with chopped vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, and hijiki seaweed)
- Gobo-maki 牛蒡巻き (fish cake stuffed with gobo)
- Datemaki 伊達巻 (egg and fish cake)
- Hanpen はんぺん (pounded fish cake)
- Ika-maki イカ巻き (fish cake stuffed with squid)
- Kamaboko 蒲鉾 (fish cake)
- Kanikama カニカマ (imitation crab meat)
- Naruto-maki 鳴戸巻き (white fish cake with a red swirl pattern)
- Satsuma age さつま揚げ (fried fish cake)
- Tsumire つみれ (fish ball)
- Vegetable Tempura 野菜の天ぷら (fried fish cake with vegetables)
Recipes Using Oden (Nerimono)
A popular dish with an assortment of Nerimono is Oden, a Fish Cake Stew. The nerimono assortment package specifically for oden is best in hot pot dishes. However, it is also eaten in many non-hot pot dishes such as stir-fries, miso soups, hot and cold noodles, or as is.
Where To Buy
Find nerimono in the freezer section of Japanese grocery stores. You may see it sold as a packaged assortment or just one variety.
How To Store
Store in the fridge or freezer. While the fish cakes are cooked products, consume them within a few days once you open the package. Some nerimono like kamaboko should be eaten within two days after opening the package.