Friday, March 4, 2011

Hinamatsuri--A Recipe for Chirashizushi


Chirashizushi is what everybody eats on March 3--Hinamatsuri.  That's Koshi up there holding the Shamoji (rice spoon) getting ready to dish some up for himself and Cici.  Chirashizushi is sushi...with sprinkles!  No--not chocolate sprinkles, nor sugar sprinkles.  Egg sprinkles, ikura sprinkles, sakuradenbu sprinkles (I'll explain in a sec)...and something green, too, so you get those nice pink-white-green spring colors.  My kids *love* Chirashizushi.  What I made today (fills up a ni-dan--two level-- o-bento box) is nearly gone, and I guarantee they'll get up in the morning and polish off the rest for breakfast.

"Chirasu" is a verb--it means scatter, distribute, spread.  I like to translate it as "sprinkle", because for food that's what you do--sprinkle on top.  Chirashizushi is simply sushi rice with certain vegetables mixed in and several other things sprinkled on top.

Full disclosure:  I don't make it entirely from scratch!  I use a package that contains the vinegar/sugar liquid for the rice (because I never can get the ratio of vinegar to sugar right), and the vegetables already cut and cooked to mix in, and the nori/sesame for final sprinkles.  I also don't own one of those huge wooden tubs to put the rice in while mixing in the vinegar/sugar (steps 1 & 2 in the photo).  Not that I don't want one of those, just that they're really big and hard to store in a teeny kitchen.  If I made this more frequently, I'd probably get one, though.  As it is, I just use my big tray (I wash it well first, of course).  So don't be put off making it yourself just because you don't have one of those nifty wooden tubs.  If you find a package version in an Asian market, then all you need are a couple of eggs, soy sauce, sugar, ikura (salmon roe), snow peas (saya ingen), and if they have it at your Asian market, sakuradenbu (explained below).

First things first--make 3 "go" (cups) of rice in the rice cooker.  You can make that ahead and leave it in the rice cooker 'til you're ready to use it.  When you're ready to start, make the Tamagoyaki first (kind of like an omlette).  One egg, beaten, add just a wee bit of shouyu (soy sauce) and a teaspoon of sugar, then pour the mixture into a pan and cook it the same way you do an omlette--letting the uncooked egg flow under the cooked edge 'til it's mostly cooked, then flip it over.  Shape is not important--I use my little rectangular Tamagoyaki pan for this, but any frying pan will do.

...don't have the flame up too high (oops!).  But it was rescued in the nick of time...

I make two eggs like this.  It's fairly thin--cut in half, then into  thin strips for sprinkling.  This tastes like sweet scrambled egg (well--sweet/salt, because of the soy sauce and sugar).  There are invariably little fingers stealing bites while I'm cutting up the egg...

Set aside.  Destring and briefly boil the snow peas, slice diagonally, and set aside.

Get out the rice--put it into a wooden tub if you have one, or just use a nice big tray with a lip.  A very large piece of wax paper would do, too, in a pinch.   Pour on the vinegar/sugar mix (if you're making it from scratch--1/2 cup vinegar, 2Tblsp sugar, 1tsp salt) and cut it in using the shamoji (rice scoop) or a wooden spoon.  Fan the rice at the same time.  This is surprisingly hard to do--like patting your head and rubbing your tummy.   I generally get one of the kids to do the fanning (that's Cici's hand holding the Uchiwa fan up there in the photo).

Next, dump on the vegetables (thin sliced carrot, shiitake,  lotus root, bamboo shoot, kampyou if you can get it--this is why I like to use the package version).  I've also seen the relevant vegetables available in a jar version, sliced and cooked and in the dressing ready to go.  Either way--it's easier and faster that way.

These are what come in the package version--vinegar/sugar mix on the left, vegetables in the middle, sesame/nori sprinkles in the small silver pack.

Once you've got the vegetables well cut in, put the mixture into what ever container you're going to use.  I've used my ni-dan (two level) o-bento boxes, but Tupperware works just fine, too.  The first time I ever ate Chirashizushi, my friend brought some over in a big Tupperware box.  I loved it the first time I had it!

On to sprinkles...

I sprinkle the thin-sliced Tamagoyaki (egg sheet) on first...

Ikura comes next...
...then the Sakuradenbu (Denbu is pressed, finely shredded fish and shrimp that's had sugar added and some food coloring to make it pink--hence the "sakura" appelation.  It's the same color as cherry blossoms:-))

And on top of the pink, put some green--I used snow peas, briefly boiled and sliced diagonally.  I've also seen Mitsuba (chervil) used, which is pretty also.

Final sprinkle is the nori and white sesame seeds.  Dekiagari! (Done!)


...and if you're still feeling adventurous, you can try Amazake--very sweet, thick, milky-looking sake.  It's basically sake in the very early stages of fermentation, so it has less than one percent alcohol.  People let kids drink small amounts of it.  Actually, I think everybody only drinks small  amounts of it (I can't imagine drinking more than about half a cup of it).  Teddy liked it--Koshi and Cici....not so much:-))  I noticed my husband making a face, too--there are plenty of Japanese who don't care for it.  So don't feel bad if you try it and aren't crazy about it.

So next time you're up for a Kitchen Adventure--head over to your nearest Asian supermarket and see if they stock the things for making Chirashizushi!

Ip---pai tabenasai! (please eat a lot!)
Mata asobou, ne!

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