March 29, 2010

Sprinkle some joy on your dinner

By Stuart Turner

Food has to look good as well as taste good in Japan so it’s no surprise that they have found a way to make even a bowl of plain sticky rice look more appealing.

Furikake is a Japanese condiment that comes in the form of dry sprinkles and can be scattered over the top of a bowl of rice or used to liven up the outside of onigiri rice balls or sushi rolls with the rice on the outside.

There are loads of different types of furikake, made from lots of different ingredients which mean the sprinkles come in a variety of interesting colours and flavours. The Japanese use furikake like we use salt and pepper and the weird and wonderful range of ingredients means that they not only enhance flavours but provide a balance of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Most furikake contain a mixture of dried or ground fish such as tuna or salmon flakes, dried vegetables or chopped seaweed such as nori, sesame seed, powdered soy sauce or miso, sugar, salt or dried egg. While this may sound odd, furikake is not overly fishy or salty; it just enhances flavours, rather like adding dried herbs to your cooking though it can sometimes be quite spicy if you buy a brand including dried chilli or wasabi.

There are lots of different uses for this versatile condiment. The simplest use is to sprinkle it over a steaming bowl of sticky white Japanese rice to add texture and flavour. Onigiri rice balls are a popular lunchtime snack and wonderfully easy to make. Once you have cooked, seasoned and cooled your sushi rice, use an onigiri mould to make these tasty balls of rice, sprinkle some furikake on a flat surface and then roll the rice balls in it for a crunchy, tasty treat.

Furikake can also be used as a seasoning for fish or meat. Try taking some small cod fillets, spread a thin layer of Japanese mayonnaise over the fish, cover with furikake and fry lightly until cooked for a delicious crispy cod coating.

You can even use it to transform Western dishes such as potatoes or salad dressings, cheese on toast or pasta. Like most condiments furikake is totally versatile so ditch the salt and pepper and sprinkle something more adventurous on your dinner.

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