Monday, May 18, 2015

Nama-chirashi 生ちらし

My wife is very particular about vinegared rice or "sushi-meshi" 寿司飯  --it has to have enough vinegar. Not that she is a connoisseur of sushi rice but sushi rice sold in the US at Japanese restaurants or the grocery store is not always good even for a non-connoisseur.  My wife sometimes observes that some sushi must be prepared with the assumption that the American clientele won't notice the vinegar is missing.  Even the sushi rice we make at home is often better than most (which should give you some indication of how bad some sushi rice can be). Since our favorite "izakaya" has been temporarily closed for sometime, one Friday, my wife declared that it was time to administer some vinegared rice so we stopped at Kanpai sushi and took out the assorted sashimi and I made nama-chirashi 生ちらし, which is sashimi on vinegared rice. I also quickly made dashi-maki Japanese omelet with garlic chives or "nira".

I covered the sushi rice with finely cut nori stripes and placed the assorted sashimi,  cucumber slices, vinegared ginger root or "gari" ガリ and mixed sea weed salad on top. The sashimi items included, tuna, hamachi, rock fish, octopus, salmon and imitation crab.

Since we cooked the rice after we came home, we did not do anything special (like adding a sheet of kelp and sake). My wife just prepared rice using our "fuzzy logic" rice cooker (with slightly less water for sushi). I could have made sushi vinegar myself (by adding sugar and salt to rice vinegar), but I used a bottle of Mizukan Sushi vinegar ミツカン寿司酢. To allow the maximum absorption, I heated the sushi vinegar in the microwave (just warm). I used my small cedar sushi-oke 寿司桶 we brought from Kiso 木曽, Japan, some years ago (wood absorbs excess moisture from sushi rice).  I added the cooked rice to the sushi-oke,  poured the sushi vinegar on the rice (about 10% by weight but I usually add as much as the rice can absorb without getting wet). I let it stand for 5 minutes covered with a moist tea towel.  I then mixed the rice with a bamboo rice paddle ("hera" へら) using a cutting motion while my wife fanned it with a Japanese paper fan we keep in the cupboard just for this purpose. The fanning cools the rice more quickly and helps evaporate the excess moisture. I then gathered the rice to one side to make a mound and cover it with the moist tea towel again to let it sit for several more minutes allowing the vinegar to absorb further. I put the sushi rice in a bowl, put on enough nori strips to cover the surface of the rice and then put on the toppings. For this dish, I placed real wasabi on the top. Just before serving I sprinkled sushi shouyu (special soy sauce for sashimi from the bottle).

The original combination sashimi looked like this.

This is after taking off the lid.

We got two orders but I decided that dividing one order was enough for both of us for nama-chirashi. The next day, I served the remaining order into two small appetizer sashimis as seen below.

The nama-chirashi was very satisfactory. Although I thought we made too much sushi rice, I served it all and it all disappeared to the last grain. The sushi rice was seasoned enough and the sashimi was good.  The combination of sushi rice, nori, and sashimi is a mainstay that cannot go wrong.

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