If you're in the mood for rice and fish but don't want to make sushi rolls, then chirashi is the best option. This dish can require very little preparation or it can be more elaborate, it is your choice. Since there are many variations, let's start with the rice. Traditionally sushi rice is used, and chirashi rice contains more rice vinegar than is used in sushi maki rolls and nigiri. The rice needs to be made ahead and cooled before using.
When buying seafood, please buy sushi-quality fish at your local Asian market and make sure it is the freshest quality. You can even ask your non-Asian fishmonger at your local supermarket if they have any fish that they recommend as sushi-quality that they would be willing to cut for you. As a last resort, you can order sushi-quality fish online at Catalina Offshore Products.
2 cups of sushi rice - note, you can use brown short-grain rice if you want.
1 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp. sesame seed (optional)
1 tbsp. JFC brand katsuo fumi furikake rice seasoning (optional)
Vegetables, seafood, prepared foods, fish roe, tsukemono (Japanese pickles,) and eggs of your choice. You can use a lot of things or just a few things. Remember that this is a versatile dish, so don't worry if you can't find a lot of the ingredients that I used.
For the photos above of my chirashi, I used:
¼ cup bibinba sansai - a prepared mix of soybean sprouts, scallion, mushrooms, and carrots that I bought at Nijiya Market in San Francisco Japantown
¼ cup kanton sai - another prepared mix of pickled vegetables that I got at Nijiya
¼ cup each of fresh tuna, salmon, Pacific conch, and boiled octopus cut in bite-size pieces
2 fresh shiso leaves
About 3 tbsp. of tobiko (flying fish roe)
Fresh sliced lotus root that I steamed in water and then marinated in a mix of soy sauce and ponzu
Half of a scallion, finely sliced
2 shiitake mushrooms sliced and marinated in ponzu
1 umeboshi plum, pit removed, and chopped finely
2 quail eggs, hard-boiled
Cook the rice and let stand for 10 minutes. Add to a bowl with the rice vinegar and mix well. Add the sesame seeds and the rice seasoning if you desire, and mix well.
At this point, you have two options. You can add some rice to the bottom half of a wide, shallow bowl and arrange your chirashi ingredients neatly to the edge of the bowl, like they do in a restaurant, and then mix them up when served at the table. This looks really pretty, but it is a lot more work, especially if you're making several chirashi. The second option, which is quicker and more traditionally home-style, is to add all your ingredients to the big bowl of rice and mix well, then portion individually. Please note that the amounts of seafood and vegetables I noted above were for one chirashi bowl; if I were going to mix up the entire 2 cups of rice, I would have doubled the topping amounts.
Serve with soy sauce (optional) and eat with chopsticks or a spoon.
Some topping suggestions:
• Julienned carrots
• Cooked spinach
• Sautéed onion
• Salmon roe
• Sea urchin
• Bean sprouts
• Bamboo shoots
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum)
Home Cooking: Sarah's Bibim Bap - Bibim bap is a Korean rice bowl of mixed ingredients with egg, and very similar to chirashi.
Summer Project: Make Vegetable Maki Sushi With Kids!
Ingredient Spotlight: Sea Urchin
Ingredient Spotlight: Salmon Roe
Japanese Cooking: Okonomiyaki
Cooking Japanese: Oden
(Images: Kathryn Hill)