Chirashi zushi is simply sushi rice in a bowl, decorated with toppings—chirashi means “to scatter things.” Tokyo-style chirashi zushi takes advantage of the abundant fish and seafood of available because of its closeness to the sea. You can thinly slice sashimi-quality fish such as tuna, flounder, salmon, sea bream, squid, octopus, or scallops. If you order this in a restaurant, you are likely to get a lot of fish because chefs will generally use abnormally-shaped fish that aren’t right for nigiri in the chirashi. A bargain tip for sampling a lot of different kinds of fish!
In other parts of Japan, chirashi toppings can be nearly anything, pieces of vegetable are the most common, or cooked seafood including shrimp.
My daughter’s comment on this meal was that the sushi rice could have used more vinegar. On a quick research expedition for this post, I did see some mention of using more vinegar and less sugar for the seasoning of the rice than what you’d use for nigiri or maki rolls. She has good taste.
Ms. Shimbo’s recipe includes sashimi fish, seasoned lotus root, simmered shiitake, salted cucumbers, and cooked shrimp. It’s an excellent overview of chirashi zushi that will enable you to make your own riffs on the basics.
I used tuna, mackerel, and salmon. The shrimp was hugely expensive, so I also bought nerimono (fish cake) imported from Japan but I didn’t use it when I realized how much food there was for only the three of us. I also made a small thin omelette, rather than the rolled omelette.
|Sushi Rice Topped with Assorted Sashimi Fish, Shellfish, and Omelette
serves 4 or 5, generously
|Prepare the Lotus Root
7 ounces lotus root (about 5 inches of a 2½-inch-diameter root)
1 quart cold water
2 Tablespoons komezu (rice vinegar.)¼ cup water
⅔ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons komezu (rice vinegar)
|Peel the lotus root, and slice it thinly. Soak it in the quart of water acidified with the vinegar.Drain the lotus root. In a saucepan, bring the water, salt, and sugar to a boil. Add the lotus root, and cook, covered with a drop-lid, over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and let the lotus root stand in the cooking liquid until it is cool.
The lotus root can be prepared to this point up to three days in advance, placed in a sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid, and stored in the refrigerator.
|Prepare the Cucumber
½ Japanese cucumber, preferably, or a salad cucumber
|Cut the cucumber diagonally into 2-inch pieces, and then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Make about six evenly spaced diagonal cuts from the skin side, leaving about ¼-inch at one side uncut. Soak the cucumber in salted water for 10 minutes. Remove the cucumber from the water, wipe it with a paper towel, and press open the cut ends of each slice to make a fan shape.|
|Prepare the Mushrooms and Omelette
4 to 5 sweet simmered dried shiitake
1 rolled omelette
|The sweet simmered shiitake can be made well ahead and frozen.
I made thin omelette with 1 egg and and extra yolk instead.
|Prepare the Sushi Rice
komezu (Japanese rice vinegar)
|The recipe is here. I made 2.1 pounds of rice rather than the 2.8 Ms. Shimbo calls for.
For chirashi zushi, I would suggest using more vinegar than what you’d use for maki rolls.
|Prepare the Sashimi
4 to 5 large tiger shrimp (6 inches) in their shells, heads attached
3 ½ ounces sashimi-quality salmon
3 ½ ounces sashimi-quality tuna
3 ½ ounces sashimi-quality sea bream or flounder
4 to 5 large sashimi-quality scallops
|Cook the shrimp, if you are using them: Insert a wooden skewer through the belly side of each shrimp, from throat to tail so it will remain straight while cooking. Peel, but leave the tail. Cut open from the belly side without cutting through the back. Gently press the shrimp open to lie flat.Slice the fish about ¼ inch thick.
Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the sushi.
|Assemble the Chirashi Zushi
Use deep soup bowls for serving the sushi. Heap one-quarter of the sushi rice, covering the bottom of the bowl but leaving the side exposed. Gently level the top of the rice. Place the cucumber, shiitake, and lotus root in the center, and arrange the sliced fish, shrimp, and omelette around the vegetables. To make a beautiful arrangement, place items of different colors next to each other and slightly overlalpped, so the presentation does not look flat. Garnish the bowl with wasabi and sweet pickled ginger, and serve with shoyu or tamari on the side.
|Garnish and Condiments
Sweet pickled ginger
Shoyu (soy sauce)
|To eat chirashi zushi, apply a little wasabi to a slice of fish, shrimp, or scallop. Pick it up, lightly dip one edge in shoyu, place the item back on the rice, and pick it up again, together with some rice. The omelette and and shiitake are best eaten without shoyu.|