Furikake is one of the – still not famous enough – wonders of the Japanese cuisine. It’s usually translated as “seasoning” or “topping”, but to be precise it comes from the verb “furikakeru”, which means “to sprinkle” and is supposed to be sprinkled just before eating, usually on rice. If you don’t like the taste of pure white rice and are fed up with soaking it in soy sauce (so many of us, Westerners, do it…), furikake is your friend. Japanese supermarkets carry dozens of different furikake kinds, so most people never prepare them at home. Most brands add preservatives, MSG or tons of salt, but if you go to a small shop selling its own mixtures or those from smaller producers, you might discover delicious unique creations and soon get addicted to them.
Last year I bought several different furikake bags from a small high-quality grocery shop in Tokyo and loved all of them. I even managed to copy (more or less…) my favourite of them all (see the recipe here) and it was the beginning of my homemade furikake adventures. Nowadays I constantly have at least two kinds of furikake in my kitchen and cannot imagine running out of them.
The story behind this second furikake is a bit different since I haven’t tasted the original, basing my recipe on the description and ingredients’ list found on Food Sake Tokyo. The furikake called “taberu togarashi”, bought by Yukari (the author of the blog) at the famous Tokyo fish market seemed so fabulous, I started to work on my own copy straight away. (In the meantime I have put down “Karaimonoya” (からいもの屋, meaning “spicy food shop”), the name of the shop where Yukari bought it, for my next trip to Tokyo). I had to work out my own ratio of the ingredients and replaced dried apricot with prune, but the result was a stunning explosion of flavours. Apart from the typical furikake products (dried bonito flakes, sesame seeds or seaweed), this one gets a mighty kick from chilli powder, a sour touch from yukari (see the TIPS), while the sweet and tangy prune adds to the complexity of flavours and makes it simply addictive. You can use it on rice, noodles, omelettes, meat, fish… the possibilities are endless, but I always prefer steamed white rice.
Food Sake Tokyo is one of the best sources – if not the best one – to find gourmet and unique eating, food shopping or drinking spots in Tokyo, with a big part dedicated to Tsukiji fish market. Yukari (the author) has also written a Tokyo food guide and organises Tokyo food tours, so make sure you visit her blog. If you don’t plan trips to Japan, she will at least make you dream.
TIPS: Some of you might not be familiar with “yukari”, one of the ingredients of this furikake. Yukari is a very dark furikake made from salt and red shiso/perilla leftover from Japanese plum pickling process. You can find it in every Japanese grocery shop (at least here), but if you don’t have access to it, replace it with sumac which is also sour and then maybe adjust the salt content.
This particular furikake is dry, so it can be made in big amounts, stored at room temperature and also easily carried to work, on trips or family visits (now you know it: I am one of those crazy people who travel with their own spices and seasoning).
-Obtaining ground dried fruit
The preparation of this furikake is very quick, apart from the ground prunes (or apricots, if you want to be closer to the original recipe), which are crucial here. In order to obtain this form you must dry the already dried fruit in the oven (lowest temperature) until it toughens a bit (don’t burn it!). You can also leave it in a dry warm spot in the kitchen and wait several days until it dries enough to be ground. Then you can reduce it into powder with a spice or coffee grinder or a food processor. The “powder” will be slightly chunky and slightly soft. I haven ever tried grinding very soft dried fruit, so I cannot say if it works without an additional drying stage. Another method to obtain the ground dried fruit is to mix it in a food processor and then dry for some time. After that, you can reduce it into powder in a coffee or spice grinder.
Since I have invented the ingredients’ ratio on my own, feel free to modify it and adapt to your taste.
Preparation: about 10 minutes if you have already dried the fruit enough to be ground
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 big sheet of nori (the seaweed used to make maki sushi)
2 heaped tablespoons ground dried prunes or apricots (see the TIPS above)
1 heaped tablespoon medium hot chilli powder or flakes (I have used Korean chilli)
1 tablespoon yukari (slightly sour, red shiso and salt-based seasoning; can be replaced with sumac, see the TIPS above)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), smaller bits or big ones mixed in a grinder
Cut the nori sheet into pieces and grind them in a coffee or spice grinder.
Combine all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the amounts.
Store in a closed jar at room temperature (it will keep for a very long time).