I’ve got a new cookbook – Japanese Food and Cooking by Emi Kazuko with recipes by Yasuko Fukuoka. I ordered it off the Book Depository website a little while ago and have been eagerly awaiting its arrival. Once it turned up in my letterbox, I started putting sticky notes on the recipes I wanted to try and ended up nearly marking every page! As well as looking for recipes for Japanese classics such as ramen and chawanmushi, I wanted to find out more about Japanese food and came across a recipe for chirashi.
Chirashi (or chirashizushi) is basically sushi in bowl form. I’d never seen this at any restaurants here in Auckland so was keen to try it out. Don’t get it confused with a donburi – chirashi uses sumeshi (the slightly vinegared rice you get in sushi), which is then topped with a variety of cooked and/or uncooked ingredients.
I started off following the recipe but in the end adapted it based on what I could get from the grocer. The original used snowpeas instead of sugar snaps and had raw squid and salmon roe. I included extra prawns and also used more sugar snaps to make sure we had a bit more veg in our dinner. Also, I didn’t put as much sugar in the sumeshi. You really could put whatever you like on top of your churashi – I think you just have to focus on making sure the balance is right, the ingredients are fresh and then take the time to arrange everything nicely. Next time I might try using salmon instead of tuna.
The result was a fresh, healthy and filling meal. It may be a bit fiddly to make, but a lot of it can be made in advance (in fact, pretty much all of it except for the nori and rice) as most of the ingredients are served either chilled or at room temperature.
2 eggs, beaten
vegetable oil, for frying
50g sugar snaps
1 nori sheet
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp wasabi paste (use less if you don’t like it too hot)
150g fresh skinless tuna steak
6 raw prawns, heads and shells removed, tails intact
1 C rice
1 Tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1/2 C water for at least 4 hours
1/2 Tbsp caster sugar
2 Tbsps mirin
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
Slice the tuna across the grain into 5mm thick pieces, using a very sharp knife. Place on a tray, cover with clear film and chill.
Put the rice on in a rice cooker (unless you don’t have one – then cook it as you would normally). While it is cooking, stir together the rest of the sumeshi ingredients until everything is dissolved. When the rice is done, sprinkle the vinegar mixture evenly over the top and then gently fold it all together.
Remove and discard the stalks from the shiitake. Pour the soaking water into a pan (unless it looks a bit dirty or you’re worried about chemicals – use 1/2 C clean water instead), add the shiitake and bring to the boil. Skim the surface and reduce the heat. Cook for 20 minutes, then add the sugar. Reduce the heat further and add the mirin and soy sauce. Simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Drain and slice very thinly. Set aside.
Insert a bamboo skewer into each prawn lengthways (this prevents it from curling up once it’s cooked). Boil in salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
Remove the skewers from the prawns. Cut open from the belly side but do not slice in two. Remove the black vein. Open out flat and add to the tray.
Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Heat a little oil in a frying pan until it smokes. Wipe away the excess oil with kitchen paper. Add enough beaten egg to thinly cover the bottom of the frying pan while tilting the pan. Cook on a medium low heat until the edge is dry and starting to curl. Lift the omelette and turn over. After 30 seconds, transfer to a chopping board. Use the remaining egg mixture to make as many of these omelettes as you need until it runs out. Pile them up and roll them together into a tube. Slice very thinly to make strands.
Parboil the sugar snaps for 2 minutes in lightly salted water, then drain. Cut into 3-5mm diagonal strips.
Snip the nori into fine shreds using scissors. Mix with the soy sauce and wasabi.
Divide half the sumeshi amongst two large rice bowls. Spread half of each of the nori mixture over each bowl of sumeshi. Cover with the rest of the sumeshi. Flatten the surface with a wet spatula.
Scatter over the egg strands to cover the surface completely. Place the prawns in one quarter of the bowl and then pile the sugar snaps in a neighbouring quarter. Arrange the tuna in a fan shape over the remaining half of the bowl and then carefully arrange the shiitake in the middle on top.
You can serve this with extra soy sauce and wasabi on the side for dipping the tuna and prawns in if you like.