It had been a while since I’d made some ‘real’ Japanese, so I got motivated on Sunday afternoon and made chirashi zushi.
Chirashi comes from the word chirakasu which means ‘to scatter’, so instead of your normal nigiri sushi (from nigiru, ‘to squeeze’ or ‘hold in your hand’) in which the fish is moulded onto the rice, the fish and vegetable toppings are scattered through and over the rice.
This is a very fiddly dish as you first must make the sushi rice, then each of the toppings must be cooked with seasonings and then cooled and finally you put it all together. From start to finish and with the side dishes of pickles, salad and agedashi dou (fried tofu with sauce) it took me about 3 1/2 hrs to prepare. Because it’s so labour-intensive, it’s normally made for the Hinamatsuri (Girl’s festival on March 3rd) or when there is a special occasion, but you can buy it ready-made from supermarkets in Japan all year-round. The special occasion that prompted me to make it was the need for me to get off my fat ass and do some cooking.
The special ingredients you’ll need for today’s lesson are:
I did say it was fiddly, didn’t I?
(Not all of these are used for the chirashi, I’ve also included what I used in the side dishes which I think will be a separate post)
First I cooked a cup of sushi rice, spread it out on a plate and mixed through 75ml of rice vinegar, two tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. You heat the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves and then pour it over the rice and mix it through. Ideally, you would have the rice in an oke or wooden pail to help soak up the excess moisture, but in lieu of that, a big plate will do.
You’re also supposed to keep fanning the rice as it cools to give it a nice gloss, but if you’re going to cover it toppings, it doesn’t really matter.
Once it’s cool-ish, cover the rice with a damp tea-towel while you prepare the toppings.
I used 5 medium-sized chinese mushrooms that I soaked in warm water for 1hr. Just barely cover them with the water. Then I cut out the stems, sliced them into 5mm strips and simmered them in the water they soaked in. Then I added 1/2 cup dashi (4g powdered dashi +water), 1 1/2 tsp sugar and 3/4 tsb soy sauce and simmered them until all the liquid disappeared. Then I chilled them in the fridge. (You need to cook the mushrooms separately as they have a potent smell that will transfer to anything you put in the same pot with them.)
Then I sliced 75g carrot thinly and cut each slice into quaters. I poured boiling water over 1 abura age (fried tofu bag) to remove the oil and dried it off with a paper towel then sliced it thinly. I put both into a saucepan and simmered them in 1/2 cup dashi (4g powdered dashi +water), 1 1/2 tsp sugar and 3/4 tsb soy sauce until the liquid disappeared and the carrot was tender. Then you chill them in the fridge.
Normally you would need to do the same with kanpyou (gourd) but I bought some prepared stuff that was already marinated and some pickled ginger. I just chopped about 30g each of them finely and chilled them in fridge.
Then you get two eggs and mix them with a pinch of salt and 1tsp sugar. Cook them in a frypan so they are like thin crepes (for two eggs I made two 20cm rounds). Then roll them up, chop them finely and chill in fridge.
Then I got about 12 medium raw prawns, shelled and de-veined them (leaving the tails on) and boiled them ever-so-slightly in water containing 1 tbs vinegar. Then I ran them under cold water to stop them over cooking and covered them in a sweet marinade made with 3 tsb vinegar, 1 tsb sugar and a pinch of salt and popped them into the fridge to cool.
I also sliced up some marinated tsubu shellfish I had (you can marinate some white fish in the dashi/soy sauce/sugar mix used for the veggies as a substitute) and defrosted and shelled some edamame (baby soya beans) I had in the freezer to give it some green colour. This was what I had in the topping line-up:
The only other thing you’ll need is some roasted sesame seeds – 1 tsb to be exact. Freshly roasted are the yummiest, so just chuck them in a fry pan until they start to go brown and become fragrant.
Okay, next thing we need to do is mix the veggies (carrots, mushrooms, fried tofu bags, gourd & ginger) and sesame seeds through the rice.
Just toss it all in and mix together well. I did keep a little of each of the veggies to scatter on top and make the final product look pretty.
Then you’ll need to spread your rice on the plate you’re going to present it on. A black plate would be uberly fantastic.
Lastly, you get your prawns and other toppings and scatter them evenly on top.
Traditionally this would be decorated with some kinome (fronds from a Szechuan peppercorn tree) but since I don’t have any, I went for some flat leaf parsley. Lotus root and rape blossom are also good veggies to marinade and mix through if you can get them and salmon roe makes a great topping.Also, sushi rice cannot be refrigerated or it tends to get hard, so you’ll need to eat it as soon as you make it.
So yes, as you can see, it was very time-consuming but it was so very,very good. I hadn’t had chirashizushi since I left Japan 4 years ago so it really hit the spot. Master was also impressed and declared it scrummy so I’m guessing I might get to make it again in the future.