Which flavors were crowned the Elite Four out of 16 total entries? 

Our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa is probably best known from his hair transplant surgery saga and Find-a-Girlfriend project of days past. These days, he’s content spending his time on smaller-scale initiatives such as hosting the Grand Prix of Marumiya Furikake taste test.

Furikake refers to any seasoning that is sprinkled over a bowl of plain rice, instantly spicing it up (pun intended). Marumiya is perhaps the most popular brand on the market, offering several series and types of furikake. In particular their nori seaweed and egg flavor is a pantry staple in Japan. After noticing that that Marumiya’s pouch furikake series consisted of a total of 16 flavors, of which he had only ever tried the nori egg type, Seiji decided to gather them all and hold one giant furikake taste test. It took him about a week to assemble all 16 of them by means of local supermarkets and online stores, and he almost cried when he finally got his hands on the final pepper egg flavor.

▼ All 16 of Marumiya’s pouch furikake series

So what were his initial thoughts based on the names of the flavors alone? The yakiniku, beef wasabi, and sukiyaki meat-based trio grabbed his attention from the start. Marumiya’s pouch furikake contain dried, crispy bits of ingredients, so would the umami flavor of the meat really come through? He predicted that out of the trio above the beef wasabi flavor had the most potential to draw out the pure meat flavor.

Similarly, the bonito line–consisting of original bonito, plum bonito, and ajidoraku–also intrigued him. Keeping in mind the power of the bonito in the ajidoraku type, he thought that that one had the potential to be the victor.

We’ll now introduce the 12 contenders that, while solid picks, didn’t make Seiji’s final cut. Each entry is accompanied by his brief notes at the time of tasting.

Rocky seashore nori (磯香のり): As soon as he broke open the pouch Seiji could smell the ocean. This one had a moderate saltiness and the nori’s flavor was at maximum strength.

Pepper egg: (ぺパたま): The strong flavor of the black pepper lent depth to the sweetness of the egg. It also left a bit of a spicy aftertaste.

Cod roe (たらこ): It tasted like cod roe were added to an instant noodle packet from the popular Spa-Oo brand.

Sesame and salt (ごましお): The salt flavor came through stronger than the sesame. Simple but effective.

Beef wasabi (牛わさび): There was only a hint of wasabi–the taste was dulled. A stronger sensation would have been nice.

Japanese plum sesame salt (梅ごましお): The sweetness of the Japanese plum (technically an apricot) coupled with the sesame saltiness resulted in a vibrant taste. However, the texture of the flower “candies” felt out of sorts with typical furikake texture.

Shiso aroma (しその香): Crushed shiso (perilla leaves) appeared like dried tea leaves. The taste was reminiscent of Japanese plum kelp tea.

Yakiniku (焼肉): While yakiniku refers to grilled meat, this furikake strongly reminded Seiji of the Yakiniku Santaro line of cheap sweets. It was good but he couldn’t shake off that sweets-instead-of-meat feeling.

Original bonito (本かつお): This was the pure umami flavor of bonito. A simple but strong offering.

Ajidoraku (味道楽): The addition of egg flakes to bonito resulted in a new depth of flavor. He enjoyed it but the main taste was definitely oriented towards the bonito.

Japanese plum bonito (梅かつお): A powerful blend of nori and Japanese plum. He wished the bonito flavor came through more clearly.

Umami salmon (旨味さけ): This was the rich, umami taste of salmon. The sweetness and the salmon flavor ran deeply in parallel.

Next, we’ll introduce introduce Seiji’s selection for the Elite Four Furikake. These were the best of the best that he kept coming back to after multiple samplings. Ready?

Nori and egg (のりたま): No wonder this one is a household staple. Its balance between the richness of flavor and salt seasoning was sublime. The flavor stimulated Seiji’s palate, and while it wasn’t overpowering, nothing was lacking, either. It all came back to being the perfect marriage of flavors within not only the Elite Four but all flavors combined.

Sukiyaki (すきやき): It really tasted like sukiyaki. On top of the umami flavor of the meat shining through loud and clear, the sweetness of the egg was also present. He was floored that furikake could taste so much like actual meat. Interestingly, this one seemed somehow different in nature than the other Marumiya offerings, perhaps being jilted by an overall sweetness. In terms of raw flavor power it was probably the most subtle of the Elite Four.

Nori wasabi (海苔わさび): The sharpness of the wasabi pierced his tongue in the midst of the nori flavor. He dubbed it the furikake offering most likely to appeal to adult palates out of the Elite Four. Don’t be afraid to judge the critics.

Shiso shirasu (しそしらす): This time the shiso was coupled with crispy shirasu, or juvenile sardines. Threads of Japanese plum added a hint of flavor but the shirasu remained the main force here. It tasted amazing on top of a bowl of rice and he figured it would go equally well inside onigiri or bento–it was the most versatile flavor of the Elite Four.

So there you have it–the results of Seiji’s Grand Prix of Marumiya Furikake. At the end of the day, all 16 of the furikake flavors had their own unique elements to offer and all of them stood their ground. While he did enjoy certain ones more than others, he didn’t consider there to be any losses within the lineup. It all depends what you’re in the mood for on a particular day.

Source: Marumiya
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