Photography courtesy of Chiso in Seattle
CHIRASHI ZUSHI ("SCATTERED SUSHI")
Chirashi sushi is a type of sushi that has a number of toppings, called gu, “scattered” on a bed of loose sushi rice. Although chirashi toppings can be nearly anything, pieces of vegetable are the most common. One bowl of chirashi has a number of toppings (nine is a common number), and sometimes do not even contain seafood or fish. Toppings vary regionally.
The rice should be packed enough so that the rice will not break apart when you eat it, but loose enough so that it is not a solid mass. Chirashi rice has more vinegar and less sugar than the rice used for nigiri.
Contrary to popular belief, the most common form of chirashi in Japan is made without fish. But on the off chance that chirashi is served with fish, you might get a lot of it! Chefs will generally use abnormally-shaped fish that aren’t right for nigiri in the chirashi, giving you that extra little last-minute perk. It is a good choice for anyone who is going to a restaurant for the first time and would like to sample a variety of the restaurant’s fish.
Chirashi is often served in Japanese homes for a number of reasons. It is simple to make, fills its eaters' bellies, and is a well-balanced meal. In Japan, where extra time is hurried, a lot of people opt for chirashi sushi as a quick bite to eat. Where fast food is a staple for Americans, chirashi sushi is, simply, a staple for the Japanese. In fact, it is so convenient that train station vendors commonly sell chirashi sushi in lunchboxes at railway stations, uniquely packaged for workers or for picnics.
On March 3rd, an annual festival called The Doll Festival is celebrated in Japan. The meal prepared for the Doll Festival, which centers around family values, is composed of chirashi, clam broth, and a salad with shellfish and green onions.
AKA: Iso-don, Gomoku Sushi
Individual Chirashi Types
- BARA SUSHI
Native to the Kansai (AKA Kyoto) province and its surrounding regions, bara sushi mixes sushi rice and ingredients together to form what is described as a “rice salad.” There are generally four or five toppings in the dish, which is why chirashi from the Kansai province is also called gomoku (go means five).
As consistent with the nature of chirashi sushi, bara sushi can have vegetables, fish, or nearly anything you’d like. However, it usually has eel and thin strips of cut-up omelet. It can also contain spices, sauces, or pieces of ginger. Modern bara sushi calls for many ingredients along the lines of soy sauce, sugar, salt, vinegar, vodka, and dill -- resulting in a very flavorful and diverse taste.
Bara sushi is different from most chirashi types, because its ingredients are mixed into the rice, as opposed to laid out on top of it.
- KANTO STYLE
Kanto-style chirashi originated in Tokyo and its surrounding areas. It usually combines nine ingredients or more. Torigai and shrimp are generally must-have ingredients, but other ingredients are flexible and may include anything from spinach and egg to bamboo shoots and crab.
In a dish with as many toppings as this one, toppings are generally picked for their looks as well as their tastes.
Don't be confused, however, because there are many types of sushi that are not chirashizushi, which call be classified as Kanto-style. Kanto is a region that has distinctly changed many sushi types (you can see more of these types on other pages).
- MUSHI SUSHI
Another Kansai form of chirashi sushi, mushi sushi is traditionally served in the winter, when people prefer a hot meal over cold sushi. Rice is prepared in a bowl with other ingredients that are usually vegetables, but can include omelet, eel, or cooked shrimp. The bowl is then steamed for ten to fifteen minutes and served.
- OMURA SUSHI
A type of sushi from Kyushu. Fish is placed in the middle of the rice, and yet another layer on the top of the rice. The entire mixture is covered with an omelette.
- SAKE SUSHI
Sake sushi is from the Kagoshima Prefecture and combines vegetables and fish with rice. It is, in accordance with its name, finished off with a dose of sake and allowed to ferment slightly. It is then topped off with additional ingredients.
- TEKONE SUSHI ("HAND-KNEADED SUSHI")
Originally created in the Shima region, it was found in areas near the ocean, where fishermen would return from their fishing expeditions. Made with fresh bonito or mackerel marinated in ginger juice, it was then hand-mixed with rice and soy sauce. Fishermen invented tekone sushi as a quick meal.
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