We gave Japanese cooking another try – this time back in Europe (trying to impress our friends). In order to do things right, we brought all the necessary ingredients from Japan. We came with one suitcase full of Japanese food and will leave with two full of European food – I guess that’s only fair.
So back to the cooking. Our Japanese teacher taught us a very practical lesson: how to make Chirashizushi (ちらし寿司), which means scattered sushi. Unlike many will expect, fish is not at all required to be part of this dish. The term sushi merely refers to the rice which is prepared with vinegar. One could call it a kind of rice salad, which is served at room temperature and it contains thinly sliced cooked vegetables (cooked with soy sauce and mirin, the Japanese way), tofu and fried egg among other things.
We included in our preparation (following our teacher’s recipe):
- lotus root
- shiitake mushrooms (dried)
- Koyadofu (dried tofu)
- Kanpyo (long dried strips of a turnip-like vegetable)
- sugar, salt, soy sauce, sake
- sesame seeds
- thinly sliced ginger
- Japanese rice
- rice vinegar
- sugar, salt
- sugar snaps
- eggs fried in a thin sheet
- thinly sliced nori (seweed)
- a few slices of tuna sashimi
First, the shiitake mushrooms, the koyadofu and the kanpyo must be soaked in water for a while. The konyaku must be briefly simmered in water to get rid of the smell. Also the kanpyo had to be simmered. In the meantime, the carrots and lotus roots can be sliced. They are cooked with a bit of soy sauce and mirin (or alternatively, sake and sugar). In the end all the above gets mixed.
Cooking the rice without a rice cooker is a bit of an endeavor (from now on, we’ll appreciate the rice cooker at home much better). One has to watch the temperature very closely (see for example this recipe). Once the rice is cooked, it is mixed with vinegar, salt and sugar. Then, the vegetable mix, sliced ginger and sesame seeds are stirred in. As with many Japanese preparations, one of the most important things is the look of the final product. So on top of the finished chirashizushi, the egg which was fried in a paper thin sheet and then thinly sliced, the sliced sugar snaps and thin strips of nori are arranged decoratively. Unfortunately we were so busy eating that I forgot to take a picture. I only took one of the (much less photogenic) leftovers.
Apart from the Chirashizushi, which was the main dish, we served a variety of rice crackers and sake for aperitivo, and a variety of Japanese sweets (including ginger cookies, Dorayaki and green tea Dango) and plum wine for dessert.