SG
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My in-laws visited from Tokyo last week. I think my mother-in-law thinks that there are no Japanese products available in the states and brought us half a suitcase-full of food. Poor, unfortunate Americans.

Turns out that half of the stuff she brought for us is available in the U.S. including Nagatanien's Otona-no Furikake, or rice seasoning.

Furikake usually consists of mysterious flavor pellets (MSG) in shocking colors that mimick salmon, chicken and other kinds of protein, tiny strips of nori and sesame seeds. Otona means "adult" so this furikake is geared toward the more aged-sophisticated folks. The taste is pretty much the same as any kids furikake, but notice that the packaging doesn't have cute pictures of Doraemon or Anpanman plastered all over it.

Très sophistiqué.

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What's shocking to me is the the ingredients list. Whoever said that the Japanese diet is healthy never saw this (or maybe the fools are the ones that think MSG causes cancer):

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This epic ingredients list pretty much includes every artificial color of the rainbow plus all the unnatural goodness of chemicals to emulate chicken, salmon, fish eggs and katsuo. Asian's are good at science, and food science is no exception.

This package contains six flavors:
Mentaiko (Spicy roe of pollack)
Ume-yukari (Plum)
Katsuo-mirin (Bonito-mirin)
Toritama-soboro (Seasoned ground chicken)
Sake aona (Salmon and green vegetables)

Forgive me for only trying two so far, but here go my reviews:

Toritama-soboro (Seasoned ground chicken)

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The first thing I notice when I break open the package is a huge olfactory burst of saltiness. Once sprinkled on to the rice, the steam fumes take the scent into chicken boullion cube territory. Seriously, I think this just consists of Knorr chicken cube powder.

But don't get me wrong, this Toritama soboro furikake is absolutely addictive and tasty. I could definitely imagine being super satisfied after yoga class scarfing a bowl of rice with this stuff sprinkled all over. It's a flavor explosion and it smells like a bowl of instant ramen.

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Mentaiko (Spicy roe of pollack)

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I dearly miss mentaiko in real form. Fresh mentaiko looks like big pink human fingers. They are sacks carrying the eggs of pollack. Sounds gross, but tastes heavenly for lovers of the salt and sea.

The mentaiko furikake mimicks the color of mentaiko (hot pink), but the similarities stop there. I can not taste any kind of mentaiko-like flavor. It just tastes like generic MSG pellets (again, not to say that this is bad). I guess I just have to keep looking at the pink coloring to convince myself that this has anything to do with mentaiko.

Surprisingly, this flavor is not that salty. I was almost about to use two packets on my relatively small bowl of rice because it barely provided enough flavor for the rice portion that I poured.

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I plan to incorporate these furikake packets into my onigiri next week. Thanks mama-in-law. Next time I'll get these at my local Japanese supermarket in America. You can too.
Column: Japanify
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8 comments

  • Faglicious Alert!

    kayoko on

  • Good and important post. I totally agree – Japan is a chemical food nightmare.

    When living in Tokyo I was sick all the time – I never felt I was sure whether the food I was eating was “clean” or filled with chemicals.

    Felt so much better when returning to Scandinavia.

    I wonder if you can get sparkly furikake??? So that the rice is shimmery?

    Anders on

  • I’m more an ochazuke addict myself, but there’s just something about Japanese instant food that’s so addictive. Oh yeah, that’s the MSG! My mum’s convinced that the Japanese MSG isn’t that harmful because it’s made from naturally occurring foods everytime her European friends go on about it. But then I was told MSG causes palpitations, etc. Is it that bad?

    Sakura on

  • But looking at the ingredients, the only chemicals are food coloring, preservatives, and MSG. Anders, you simply missed you mama too much while you were in Japan. Ha!

    Yamahomo on

  • Anders – Shimmery? Well, when you make vinegared sushi rice it’s pretty shimmery. There also a trick where you fan the rice after it steams so that it looks shinier.

    Yamahomo – Yes, ONLY.

    Sakura – Yeah, I am totally into Nagatanien’s ochazuke packets. I love their signature kabuki inspired packaging. The ume flavored one I got is SO good – it has shiso no mi mixed in. Genius.

    Rich – What?! Furikake on fish? That sounds strangely disgusting. But then again, I totally believe you that it was tasty.

    Dennis – What’s your favorite Nichifuri furikake flavor? I don’t know if I’ve ever had nichfuri. What’s special about it? Bigger flakes? Crunchier? The wasabi furikake looks really good to me.

    yoko on

  • Hi Yoko, nice post. My sister still sends me Wasabi Furikake. I can’t get my favorite brand of it here which turns out to be Nichifuri. It’s not too over the top hot. :)

    Dennis on

  • Even as a furikake junkie, I think it’s a disaster how it ended up being a frequent menu item in Pacific-fusion-y restaurants. I seem to recall a soy-glazed fish with furikake at the Four Seasons on Hawaii, which was darned tasty but so, so, so wrong.

    Rich C. on

  • This is so informative. Thanks. I at at a Japanese restaurant here the other night and had a sweet mini headache to accompany the MSG intake. It was tasted like Japanese food* should taste.

    *in Brazil.

    Bryan on

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