FURIKAKE

SAVORY ALL-PURPOSE SEASONING

How many of you are familiar with the Japanese seasoning called furikake? From the verb furikakeru, which means to sprinkle something, it refers to a flavorful condiment made up of a variety of different ingredients that is generally eaten sprinkled over hot rice, even though it has many other applications as well! Many furikake combine sweet and salty, crunchy and soft, etc. for exciting taste and texture sensations. There are over 1,000 types of furikake produced by major food manufacturers that can be currently found in Japan's supermarkets and groceries, and when we add regional specialty furikake, sold only at local stores, the number of furikake on the market is said to come to approximately 1,500 different types. We could probably say that furikake is in the cupboard of every Japanese household, and it would not be an exaggeration to call it one of Japan's comfort foods. Let's find out more about this seasoning, so incredibly varied in flavor and texture, that adds brings a zing to our meals!

HISTORY OF FURIKAKE

From the Meiji period (1868-1912) through the earlyTaisho (1912-26), the population ofJapan suddenly increased to approximately double, which led to a drastic food shortage throughout the country resulting in widespread undernourishment. The calcium deficiency was particularly worrisome. Japan was not a "dairy country," and didn't raise cattle or ingest dairy products which might have helped alleviate the deficiency. Furthermore, Japan's soil was acidic, due to the fact that the nation evolved as a volcanic country, and compared to European countries the calcium content of its water and native crops were low to begin with. In the early Taisho period, approximately one hundred years ago, there was a man named Suekichi Yoshimaru, a pharmacist by occupation, living in Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu. Concerned especially with the effects children would suffer from calcium deficiency, Yoshimaru came up with the idea to make a meal supplement that was rich in calcium by drying whole fish (bones included) and grinding them into powder. By neutralizing the odor ofthe fish by mixing the powder with aromatic additions like toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds and powdered green seaweed, he created a topping that could be sprinkled on top of rice and gave off a savory, appetizing aroma. Children (and adults) who might have objected to eating plain ground dried fish enjoyed the seasoning and were able to replenish some of calcium their bodies so badly needed. This seasoning, dubbed Gohan no Tomo, or "Friend of Rice" has been recognized as the precursor to today's furikake by the Japan Furikake Association. Over 100 years after its inceptlon as Gohan no Tomo, furikake, created by a lone pharmacist who was concerned about the health of his countrymen, is a beloved part ofJapanese cuisine, enjoyed by people ofall ages.

VARIETIES OF FURIKAKE

While the population of modern day Japan no longer suffers from the type of nutritional deficiency it faced one century ago, furikake is still currently enjoyed by consumers ofall ages and its ever-expanding popularity has spread to Southeast Asia, North and South America, and Europe. From among a mind-boggling array of varieties, here we'll list the most typical furikake. Note that the name ofthe furikake is often the ingredient which is present in the largest percentage among other ingredients.

WAYS TO ENJOY FURIKAKE

Furikake can be a garnish or an ingredient, and can be used in many different dishes in many different ways.

As a Topping

When used as a topping over a hot dish (the heat both releases and helps to meld flavors together), furikake gives great flavor and texture to dishes like plain cheese pizza, clear soups, salads, popcorn, tofu, grilled fish, etc. Also, when sprinkled on dishes that already have strong flavors, such as yak/soba, yakiudon, takoyoki, ramen, curry rice, donburi, fried rice and the like, furikake adds a delicious layer of complexity.

Dressed Dishes

Simple dishes of fresh or cooked vegetables or even tofu become substantial side dishes when tossed with furikake seasoned dressings. Yukori, a red perilla leaf based fur/koke goes especially well with vegetables, instantly giving them a pleasantly acidic flavor similar to pickled dishes. The sharp and sweetish aroma of wasabi makes it also a great seasoning.

As a Cooking Ingredient

Furikake is delicious when mixed in with rice for rice balls, tempura batter, omelets or scrambled eggs, okonom/yaki, sauteed dishes, etc. Adding a dollop of butter and a few shakes of tarako furikake to some a/c/ente pasta and giving a o|uick toss lets you have elegant, tasty pasta when you're pressed fortime. l\/larukai has all flavors of furikake in packaging that suits your needs. And it's so easy and versatile to use! Instead of salt and pepper, how about using some furikoke to bring a new level of deliciousness to your cooking, and watch the smiles light up around your dinner table tonight!