What is Furikake, the Japanese hazelnut-salty-salty-seaweed dusting?
Modern furikakes are available in a variety of combinations. While the classics gomashio, shiso and katsuobushi are still standing, you will also find furikakes with more recent additions like dehydrated eggs, wasabi, nori, sardines, cod roe, umeboshi, meat. , yuzu, curry powder and other spices. And thanks to industrial dehydrators, they’re also drier, crispier, and more durable than the homemade versions I grew up with.
How can I use the furikake?
Furikake is versatile and does not need to be stored for special meals or even reserved for Japanese dishes. It can become a daily seasoning like salt or pepper if desired. I have found mixtures that not only give my rice a touch of flavor, but also brighten up my pasta, noodles, vegetables, pizza, popcorn, dips and, in my last experiment, focaccia.
To use it properly, avoid sprinkling it on – like salt, it’s salty! use it to add texture and punch to steamed sweet potato, chicken salad, raw vegetables; spread it over crackers and cookies as a finishing touch just before baking. Or follow the example of Kristina cho and make furikake, with green onions, mayonnaise and pork bristle, topping on savory swirl buns.
Yes, adding furikake to a Western dish can cloud its authenticity, but if it tastes good, why not?
Where can I buy furikake (and how can I find the right things)?
On the west coast, where I live, I found delicious furikakes made with seaweed and locally harvested salts. The best seaweed furikakes are fresh, sustainably sourced and free from chemical additives. The USA-made furikakes and the spice blends adjacent to the furikake that I love come from Daybreak Seaweed Company, Jacobsen Salt Co., and Eden Foods.
If you buy furikake in a Japanese market, there are as many options as there are instant ramen. I recommend that you look for those without artificial additives (like chemical preservatives or food coloring). The labels are often not translated into English but you can always ask the merchant to help you. At present, Noritama furikake – a mixture of nori seaweed, dehydrated eggs and sesame seeds seasoned with soy, sugar, and many artificial preservatives – is popular among Japanese children and adults. I tend to stick to classics like gomashio and shiso, preferably without additives.
The definition of furikake seems to be evolving – I’ve even come across savory granolas that act like furikake but are substantial enough to be snacks. As always, food cultures intersect and coexist on individual plates, seeking perfect balance and harmony. And while I never thought that the tiny salty sprinkles of my childhood would become the darling of the world of global seasonings, I can guarantee their goodness.
Sonoko sakai is a Japanese-American cookery teacher and author of Japanese cuisine at home.