Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Barazushi, or Chirashizushi if you'd like. I remember it as barazushi from Hiroshima, although the more common name is chirashizushi. Either of these carry the meaning of 'scattered', which the toppings are. Barazushi is a homemade sushi treat which has regional variations, and differs from home to home. One general difference between barazushi and chirashizushi is that barazushi more often has some vinegared ingredients mixed up in the rice itself, rather than just on top. The photo above is a barazushi that I made myself, and what you can't see is the vinegared shitake mushrooms and gobo (burdock) strands mixed into the sushi rice beneath. The topping is cut up omelet, cucumber, carrots and curly nori (laver seaweed).
I enjoy trying chirashizushi at various Japanese restaurants since they are usually beautiful works of art, which happen to be delicious too. But honestly, nothing has ever beat my Hiroshima grandmother's version. She always included lotus root, shrimp, shitake mushrooms, and something green like mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley) among other ingredients.
Although this can be made completely by scratch, many Japanese cooks use shortcuts, like many American ones.
First there is the bed of sushi rice, whether you make it bara-style with vinegared vegetables mixed in, or plain as in most chirashizushis. Using Mitsukan Sushi Rice Mix Powder is one of the easier ways to make perfect plain sushi rice without measuring wet rice vinegar with granulated sugar/and or mirin (sweet rice wine).
If you want to have the bara-version where vinegared vegetables are pre-mixed in and are mixed in tasty bits throughout the rice, you can either make these yourself or use a mix. One popular mix is Sushitaro, the above video clip is a cute advertisement related to Girl's Day, one of the traditional times to eat chirashizushi.
There are also canned mixes which you can open and just mix in with some premeasured cooked rice that have all the seasoned vegetables in it with the proper amount of sushi vinegar flavoring for the overall rice.
This Hinachirashi (Chirashi for Girls Day) recipe has one variation of making the vinegared vegetables from scratch, althought I usually use one that has dashi (fish stock) in addition to the rice vinegar, mirin and sugar.
Magi Yamamura makes a very pretty presentation of chirashi sushi with step-by-step photos.
I've noticed that a number of Japanese upscale restaurants have taken away the bowl, and lessened the amount of rice base for a very stylish presentation, as exemplified in the Sushi Ran version above. This version was tender and delicious. There are many interesting versions of sushi, Wikipedia has an excellent reference to the many types. As I said, I enjoy this dish, so you are likely to see more reviews of chirashi sushi as I visit and revisit Japanese restaurants wherever I may be!
And I can't resist leaving you with this adorable children's short "Honorable Sushi Picnic"!