View Full Version : MMM!!! Furikake!

J. A. Crippen
3rd April 2002, 11:44
Plain rice can get boring after a while. Particularly when it's part of every meal, every day. That's why those ever inventive Japanese came up with furikake.

Furikake is a condiment sprinkled over plain rice to add new flavor without overpowering. While many westerners like pouring shoyu over their rice most Japanese people I know don't approve of such behavior, particularly because it reduces the rice's stickiness and makes it hard to eat with hashi. Instead of flavoring with shoyu, which can also get quite boring after a while, furikake provides an exciting mixture of flavors.

Furikake is basically a blanket name for various combinations of finely crushed nori, katsuobushi flakes, sesame seeds, sansho, pepper flakes, and anything else that might go well on top of rice. It comes in jars, packets, and lots of other interesting packages, and children use obscenely colored packets of the stuff emblazoned with cute froggies and Hello Kitty, included in their lunches by okaachan.

You can buy all sorts of variations on the furikake theme at your local oriental grocery store. Furikake tends not to be found at ordinary western supermarkets however, since rice doesn't form the center of a western meal as much as it does in East Asia.

I have a secret recipe for furikake that has been handed down in my family for generations. I'll share it with you for only $19.95 if you join my dojo and sign up for sensei training.

Truthfully, I ran out of my usual brand of furikake one day and then thought about making it myself. Each time I make it I make it differently, but here's the basic idea, with no specific measurements:

roasted soybeans
black and white sesame seeds
sea salt
aonori flakes
katsuobushi flakes
sansho flakes

In a suribachi or with mortar and pestle grind the salt to the consistency of flour. Don't use regular salt, use sea salt because it's more flavorful. You want it to be powdery when fully ground, like the salt McDonalds shakes over its french fries.

Roast the roasted soybeans. Don't try this with unroasted soybeans because you'll probably burn your pan more than you'll roast the beans. Roasted soybeans tend to be dryer and will burn much faster. Reroast them by putting them in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When they start to slightly smoke and burn shake them around so they are roasted evenly on all sides. Try not to burn them too much or you will end up with an overpowering burnt flavor. When they are almost done sprinkle them with a small amount of salt, but not too much, and roll them around to catch the salt that ends up in the bottom of the pan. They should be somewhat oily when done. Put them in a bowl to cool.

Roast the sesame seeds. Put them in a non-stick frying pan and cover them with a splatter screen to keep them contained. Cook them on medium high heat until they start to smoke and pop a lot. If you didn't use a splatter screen you'll be digging seeds out of the corners of your kitchen for the rest of your life -- they like to jump! Put the seeds in a bowl to cool.

Get an airtight container, preferably a glass one such as a reused spice bottle. One with a shaker lid, ie a plastic lid with holes in it, is ideal as long as the holes are large enough (you may want to drill them out a little bit). Pour some aonori into the bottle along with a little bit of salt. This is all eyeball and guesswork, and you may find yourself adding a little more of this and a little more of that as you taste and test.

Grind the katsuobushi in a suribachi or mortar and pestle. A suribachi works *much* better for this than a mortar and pestle, because the suribachi has finer control of the coarseness of the grind. You want the flakes to be the same size as the aonori flakes when done. Don't grind the katsuobushi into a powder or otherwise it will overpower everything else in the mix. Add the ground katsuobushi to the furikake container.

When the sesame seeds are cool enough to comfortably touch them with your fingers, pour them into the suribachi and grind them loosely. Don't grind them into a paste or powder, but just grind them enough to where most of the seeds are crushed and opened. When done add them to the furikake mix.

Grind the roasted soybeans in the suribachi. You want them ground to the same size as sesame seeds. Slightly larger chunks here and there are okay as well, but whole or half beans are undesirable since they don't sprinkle well. When the soybeans are ground add them to the furikake.

Close the furikake container tightly and shake the hell out of it. Roll it back and forth, shake it up and down, practice punching and blocking with it in your hand. Really mix it up. When it looks evenly mixed wet your finger and stick in in the bottle, then taste it. Salty? Bonitoy? Noriy? Good. Add sansho to taste, but not too much to where it's extremely spicy. Shake some more until the sansho is evenly distributed.

To use, sprinkle on cooked rice as desired. Cooking with it is also possible, but it depends on the dish and the manner of cooking how well the ingredients will come out.

Other ideas for ingredients are pepper flakes (ichimi togarashi), ground dried peas, ground roasted hemp seeds, dried ground yuzu rind, ground sunflower seeds, puffed rice, dried ground ginger, dried ground shiitake mushrooms, dried egg yolk balls (used in many commercial furikake recipes), and basically anything else that's dried and can be ground into small bits. Look on the back of commercial furikake packages for ideas, and try weird and unlikely combinations.

Above all, the rule in making furikake is a total violation of Japanese aesthetics: More Is Better! The more flavor you cram in there the more interesting it will be. It's not a main dish, it's a condiment! Make it as fun and complex as you can, because it's used on things that are very short on flavor themselves. Amaze your Japanese friends with the weird ingredients you cram in your furikake. Try dried squid eyeballs, try ground pine needles, and try ground deer horn for the special bottle you make for your aging soke. ^_^ Go wild!