How to make chirashi sushi at home with egg ribbons, salmon and spring vegetables
Active time:20 minutes
Total time:55 minutes
But there is another way to make sushi at home – no fancy knife skills required. Tonight we eat chirashi sushi. Literally translated as “sparse sushi,” it’s a much more casual, home-made preparation than you’ll find in most sushi restaurants.
“When I teach a sushi class, I never teach nigiri sushi or anything you would have in a sushi bar, because that’s only for sushi chefs,” says Sonoko Sakai, cooking teacher, author and grain activist who makes chirashi almost every week. “For chirashi sushi, you can use whatever you have. Truly, the possibilities for a chirashi are endless, as it doesn’t have to be seafood. Anything can be vegan or vegetarian if you wish.
To do this, sushi rice is prepared, seasoned and then topped with a handful of fresh, cooked, pickled, preserved, smoked, dried, pan-fried or otherwise cooked vegetables, fruits and/or proteins. Raw fish and shellfish are popular options. Eggs, lightly fried in thin sheets and cut into ribbons, are a traditional addition. Norie, furikaki, sesame seeds, fresh ginger and tender shiso leaves are common seasonings. But there are many ways to play.
It’s not absolutely essential, but the overriding concept to keep in mind when making chirashi sushi is gogyosetsu, or the Japanese system of grouping things by fives. It’s a way of thinking about using all your senses (when cooking and eating), all flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami) and the five basic colors – white, yellow, red, green (or blue) , and black (or brown or purple) – when composing a dish. A variety of flavors and all five color groups appear in this spring-to-summer chirashi sushi recipe — but consider it a pattern. Once you figure out the elements, you can swap out ingredients depending on what you have and what you crave.
As with sushi – and all Japanese dishes – seasonality is a factor. In his cookbook,Japanese home cooking“, Sakai includes a chirashi sushi recipe for fall that includes pomegranate seeds. “They’re not a traditional sushi ingredient, but they work!” she writes. The red fruit, alongside the carrots, brings a splash of red and is a nod to his longtime home in Los Angeles, where pomegranate trees thrive.
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In the spring, Sakai says she could top her sushi rice with shelled and blanched green peas, sliced snow peas or even steamed or blanched asparagus. Neither pomegranate seeds nor asparagus are traditional ingredients, but Sakai says “we’ve always adapted our cooking to where we live, using local Japanese-style ingredients.”
In this recipe, especially if you opt for smoked salmon instead of fresh, all the fillings can be prepared in advance. The only thing you need to make the day you plan to serve the chirashi is the rice.
To make good sushi rice, you will need to buy Japanese sushi rice. Measure the amount you want to prepare, then rinse and soak in cold water for 15-30 minutes – or overnight. “This starts the cooking process, the rice starts soaking in some of the water at this stage,” Sakai explains. “Soaking ensures that your rice cooks evenly and is firm yet tender.”
She likes to add a small piece of kombu to her rice while cooking and sometimes seasons the cooked rice with fresh ginger, a touch of sake, toasted sesame seeds or chopped herbs. “You can treat it like a pilaf for chirashi,” she says. “But whatever you do, let it soak and cook it slowly so you don’t end up with mushy rice!”
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- Traditional sushi rice has a hint of sugar >> but even Sakai says she sometimes skips it.
- Egg ribbons add protein and a yolk stain. >> If you don’t eat eggs, skip them. (Need another idea for yolk? Try yellow cherry tomatoes or yellow bell pepper.)
- Salmon, smoked or not, and its eggs provide the red of this chirashi. >> Feel free to use another fish, such as tuna. You can also use any other protein instead.
- Instead of cucumbers >> consider sliced snow peas, steamed asparagus, pickled green beans or fresh herbs.
NOTE: If you have hard water, Sakai recommends using filtered water to cook rice for best results.
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- 1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) sushi or other short-grain rice
- 1 1/4 cups cold water, plus more for rinsing (see NOTE)
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt, more if desired
- 1 large egg
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- Small pinch of granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 4 ounces smoked or sushi-grade salmon, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 Persian cucumber, sliced or 1/2 avocado, sliced
- 1 small carrot (1 ounce), cut into thin matchsticks
- 4 ounces salmon roe (optional)
- 2 nori sheets (2 inches), cut or sliced into thin strips (optional)
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger or sliced sushi ginger (pickled) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon prepared wasabi, or more to taste (optional)
- Soy sauce, for serving
Place the rice in a small 1 or 2 quart saucepan. Add cold water to cover, gently swirl the rice around for 20 seconds with your fingers, then pour out all the starchy water, being careful not to let the rice grains go down the drain. Repeat this process. After draining the cloudy water a second time, add 1 1/4 cups of cold water to the rice and let it soak for 15 minutes or overnight.
Set the saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and maintain a rapid simmer for 4 minutes, making sure it does not boil over, then cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. At this point, the rice will be cooked, but firm and still quite moist. Remove from heat and keep tightly covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and use a rice spatula or large spoon to gently stir the grains. Keep the rice well covered while you prepare the toppings.
Make the egg ribbons: In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the salt and sugar until smooth.
Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Lightly grease the bottom of the pan with the oil. Pour in the egg and tilt the pan so that the egg spreads in an even layer across the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook egg gently until surface is almost dry with a few wet spots, 3 to 4 minutes. (The egg should not brown.) Turn off the heat and allow the egg to cool slightly. Transfer to a cutting board, roll the egg into a log, then cut across to form 1/2-inch-wide ribbons.
Stir the rice again with a rice paddle or rubber spatula and stir in the rice vinegar, sugar, if using, and salt. Taste the rice and adjust the seasoning if desired.
To serve, divide the rice between two bowls. Carefully garnish each with egg ribbons, slices of salmon, cucumber or avocado, carrots and, if using, salmon eggs, strips of nori, ginger and a little wasabi. Serve with soy sauce at the table.
Per serving (with raw salmon and cucumber), based on 4
Calories: 256; Total fat: 4 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 62mg; Sodium: 299mg; Carbohydrates: 45g; Dietary fibre: 1 g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 10g.
This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
From personal writer G. Daniela Galarza. Sushi rice recipe adapted from “Japanese Home Cooking” by Sonoko Sakai (Roost Books, 2019).
Tested by G. Daniela Galarza and Kara Elder; questions by e-mail to [email protected].
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