Adapted from La Fuji Mama
Eilene’s school break ends tomorrow and she wanted sushi for dinner this Sunday. To make a change up from my usual maki and inari shushi I decided to do Chirashi Sushi, scatter sushi. From what I have read, this is what most Japanese housewives serve at home, partly (I understand) because they are intimidated by the Japanese master chefs who can make the cut maki’s cross section look like flowers or fish. Who knew? I just started making maki back when I was 20 because I liked it and didn’t know that I was competing with anyone.
If you scan through my archive of recipes you may find a number base on Japanese cuisine. There is a reason for this that goes back to my early family life. During the Korean War (back around when I was born), my father was a major in
the Air Force and stationed in Japan for several months. As I was growing up, the tales he told about this experience were of long periods of free time to learn Japanese and absorb Japanese culture, He never talked about what he was actually doing there or why this experience resulted in a Korean War combat ribbon.
You must understand that my father was an aeronautical engineer and that through two wars, first in the Navy and then in the Air Force, his duties were mostly state-side and non-violent. I interviewed him on his death bed and finally got the true story about what he was doing in Japan in the 1950s (Partly I suspect because the 50 year secrecy ban had expired).
My father’s military experience (both their beginnings and endings) in the World War and Korean War was not the common story. In both wars, one day he was doing his job as a civilian and the next day he was doing the same job in the same place in the military. At the end of the conflicts it was just the reverse, he was in the military and the next day he doing the same job in the same place as a civilian. The real difference was that when he was in the military what he was doing was considered a military secret because of the wars.
Have you ever seen a plane refueling in flight? A solid telescoping tube projects from the bottom of the tanker and the refueling fighter comes up from below and hooks on in flight. That is what my father was doing in Japan. Once or twice a month, for a few hours, he was in the tail of a tanker plane flying over the Korean War Zone experimenting with that in-flight re-fueling system. The rest of the time he spent waiting in Japan (for the weather, for design changes, for the military) free to do as he wished. He came back speaking fluent Japanese and with a love of Japanese culture and food that he passed on to the family.
I left the lotus root out of Fuji Mama’s recipe because Jan does not like it. I also doubled many of the other ingredients, because she may think her proportions serves 4-6, but she has not seen my family eat.
Karl’s Chirashi Sushi
Makes 4 – 6 servings
4–8 oz. sashimi grade raw fish, sliced
kinshi tamago (egg crêpes), shredded
3-4 green onions
24 inches kanpyō (dried calabash gourd)
6 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1 carrot, sliced into large matchsticks
1 cup dashi
4 Tbs. sugar (multiple uses)
4 Tbs. mirin (multiple uses)
2 Tbs. soy sauce
½ cup rice vinegar
½ tsp. salt
4 cups Japanese short grained rice, steamed and slightly cooled
1. Rub a pinch of salt into the kanpyō. Soak the gourd and the shiitake mushrooms in separate bowls of warm water for 30 minutes.
2. After the kanpyō has soaked, boil the kanpyō in a pot filled with fresh water for about 10 minutes. Cool the kanpyō under running water, drain the water, and slice the kanpyō into small pieces. After the shiitake mushrooms have soaked, drain the water and cut them into small slices.
3. Combine the dashi, 2 Tbs. sugar, 2 Tbs. mirin, and the soy sauce in a pot. Add the kanpyō, shiitake mushrooms, and carrot. Cook over low heat, gently stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, turn off the heat and let everything cool in the pot.
4. While the gourd, mushrooms and carrots are cooking, make and slice the kinshi tamago (La Fuji Mama’s recipe is copied below). Slice the fish into bite sized pieces. Cover both with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Slice the green onions on the bias and set aside.
5. Add the rice vinegar, salt, and the rest of the sugar and mirin to a cup and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add it to the cooled ingredients in the pot and then gently toss everything together with the steamed rice, being careful not to mash or break the rice grains.
6. I like to present Chirashi Sushi as individual servings. Wet the inside of a small rice bowl. Press the sushi into the bowl, but do not pack it too tightly. Invert the bowl over a small plate and tap to release the rice. You may need to clean and re-wet the bowl between servings, so that the rice continues to come out easily. Arrange the sashimi, egg strips, and green onion decoratively over the rice mounds. If there is any remaining ingredients make a final serving plate of chirashi sushi as a center piece.
7. Cut sheets of nori into quarters, to serve on the side.
La Fuji Mama‘s Usuyaki Tamago (Japanese Egg Crêpes)
Makes about 4–5 crêpes in an 8-inch skillet
2 large eggs
2 1/4 teaspoons superfine sugar (caster/castor sugar)
1/4 teaspoon water or dashi
pinch of salt
1. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs together with a whisk. Add the sugar, water, and season with the salt. Pour the egg batter through a fine mesh sieve (to get rid of any lumps so that your batter will cook evenly).
2. Heat a skillet over low-medium heat and brush the skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil. Reduce the heat to low and pour a small amount of the egg batter (roughly 1/4 to 1/5 of the batter) into the skillet and quickly swirl it around by tilting the skillet in all directions until it coats the bottom of the skillet evenly. The crêpe will cook very quickly, so watch it carefully to prevent it from burning. When the edges are dry and the middle is just set, loosen the edges with a spatula or chopstick and then turn the crêpe over and let the other side cook for about 10 seconds to help it “dry out”, then flip the crêpe out onto a plate to cool.
3. Repeat until all the egg batter has been used. Make sure to re-oil your pan between crêpes You can stack the crêpes on top of each other as you make them—they will not stick to each other. These crêpes will keep for 5 days, covered in the refrigerator.
** If you are going to be using these crêpes as wraps, it’s a good idea to strengthen them by adding some cornstarch into the egg batter. To do this, mix 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch with 1/2 tablespoon of cold water and stir this into the egg mixture to combine it well.