Fabulous Furikake

Seasoning blends are the lifeblood of many a cuisine, and the love of chefs and cooks all around our world. From adobo to zatar and everything in between, they’re the signature flavors of our cooking lives. One of my favorites will hopefully be yours too – it’s Japanese Furikake, and it’s a delightful thing indeed.

So, what is this heavenly stuff? It’s a crumbly, bright dry seasoning blend meant to accompany rice, but it’s fantastic with everything from tofu and chicken to scrambled eggs and potatoes.

Furikake means ‘to sprinkle over,’ and there’s not much it isn’t delightful in concert with. In Japan, a bowl of plain rice – good rice, properly prepped and cooked, is enjoyed everywhere, every day – More often than not, there’s some version of furikake topping things off.

As one would expect, there are a lot of choices when it comes to Furikake brand and ingredients. From super simple to wildly creative, there’s a blend for just about every palate. Check out the options and you’ll find seaweed (Nori), shiso, egg yolk (Tamagotchi), bonito flakes (Okaka), salmon roe, eel, scallops, wasabi, ginger, various veggies, tea, miso, and sake – and that’s not an exhaustive list by any means.

Buying a blend or two is a great way to find out what you like best, but in the end run you’ll want to make your own. Many commercial furikake blends contain fillers, anti-caking agents, and preservatives that do nothing for genuine flavors, or your health for that matter. MSG is also a popular additive, and not everyone likes that stuff. With fresh ingredients you choose making up your personal blends, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating.

Furikake is great on proteins – tofu, fish, poultry, pork and beef. It shines on veggies, and just about any grain, pulse, pasta, or legume. It’s marvelous in salad dressings, soups, stews, and bakes. In other words, it’s as versatile as salt and pepper – All the more reason to explore and create your own signature blend.

At its core level, Furikake is salt and toasted sesame seeds, a combination enjoyed in Japan for thousands of years. Called Gomashio Furikake, it’s often used today as an lower sodium alternative to straight salt. Blended at anywhere from 15:1 to 5:1 sesame seeds to salt, this simple mix offers a wonderful array of options in and of itself – use different mineral salts, from Himalayan pink to Hawaiian black, and you’ll get a subtle range of flavors. Switch white sesame for black, and you’ve got more variants yet. For the record, the difference between white and black sesame is the hull – Black seeds got ‘em and white seeds don’t.

Gomashio Furikake

3 Tablespoons White or Black Sesame Seeds

1 teaspoon Mineral Salt

In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds for 2-3 minutes, shaking gently and more or less constantly – when the seeds are golden brown and/or fragrant, you’re there.

Combine with salt and store in a clean, airtight glass spice jar.

The next step is Nori Komi Furikake, which adds seaweed to the mix. There are a bunch of popular varieties, and these days you can find quite a few at your local Asian grocer, or online. Nori, Kombu, Wakame, Hijiki, and Dulce are all delicious and unique, so here again, changing nothing more than the seaweed you add provides ample opportunities for discovery. This recipe includes sugar, which deserves a note – what you really want is the ethereal Japanese Wasanbon, a legendary golden brown, fine grained sugar with notes of butter and honey – but be forewarned, it’s not cheap, or all that easy to find. Good substitutes include light muscovado or demarara.

Nori Komi Furikake

3 Tablespoons toasted Sesame Seeds

1-2 sheets Sushi Nori

1 teaspoon Sugar (see note above)

2 teaspoons Mineral Salt

Cut the nori into roughly 1/4” by 1/2” strips – I use kitchen scissors, which may sound goofy, but they work great.

Combine all ingredients and store in a clean, airtight glass spice jar.

The next step up adds egg yolk and bonito flakes to the mix. While you can do the egg via a hard boiled yolk, a homemade salt cured yolk will deliver a much deeper, more complex umami note, and the blend will last far longer than using the former option. This one is called

Noritama Furikake.

3 Tablespoons toasted Sesame Seeds

1/2 – 1 sheets Sushi Nori

1 salt cured Egg Yolk (or hard boiled)

1 teaspoon Bonito Flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons Mineral Salt

1 teaspoon Sugar (see sugar notes above)

1/4 teaspoon Sake

1/4 teaspoon Tamari

In a small, non-reactive mixing bowl, combine tamari, sake, sugar, and salt, and whisk with a fork to thoroughly incorporate.

Cut the nori into roughly 1/4” by 1/2” strips, and combine with all other ingredients.

Fine grate preserved egg yolk, or smash hard boiled to fine grain.

Add bonito flakes, sesame seeds, and egg yolk to the mix and fork whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Next up is Shiso Furikake, made with it’s namesake leaf, the shiso, or beefsteak, or perilla – this plant is from the mint family, and is widely used in several Asian cuisines. Edible cultivars come in red, green, and bi-color varieties.

Shiso has a strong minty flavor, with basil-like undertones. Dried leaf doesn’t keep its potency well at all, but you should be able to find fresh leaves at Asian grocers – As far as I’m concerned, shiso furikake is worth making only when you can get fresh leaves.

Shiso Furikake

1 1/2 Tablespoons toasted White Sesame Seeds

1 1/2 Tablespoons toasted Black Sesame Seeds

1/2 to 1 sheets Sushi Nori

6-10 Shiso Leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons Mineral Salt

1 teaspoon Sugar1 teaspoon Bonito Flakes

1/2 teaspoon Tamari

Tightly roll and chiffenade cut shiso leaves

Cut nori into 1/4” by 1/2” strips

Combine salt, sugar, and Tamari in a non-reactive mixing bowl and whisk with a fork to thoroughly combine.

Add bonito flakes and whisk.

Add sesame seeds, nori, and shiso – whisk to thoroughly combine.

Then there’s Yasai Fumi, or vegetable flavored Furikake. The incorporation of vegetables, and maybe even some fruit affords a lot of room for experimentation. Most mixes use ‘vegetable chips’ and/or powder, but to me, this is a place for home grown and dried produce, and the opportunity to add a little zing and brightness. I built this one, inspired by the treat of fresh shishito chiles grilled with sesame oil and lemon juice, sprinkled with furikake.

Yasai Fumi Furikake

1 1/2 Tablespoons toasted White Sesame Seeds

1 1/2 Tablespoons toasted Black Sesame Seeds

1 1/2 Tablespoons coarsely ground dried Shishito Chiles (dried bells or jalapeños will work fine too)

1 teaspoon fine grated Orange or Lemon Zest (you can use dried too)

1/2 Sheet Sushi Nori1 teaspoon Mineral Salt

Cut the nori into roughly 1/4” by 1/2” strips.

Combine all ingredients and fork whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Author: urbanmonique

I cook, write, throw flies, and play music in the Great Pacific Northwet.

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