The two Chinese characters notionally contained in the word furikake, 振 and 掛, mean ‘shake’ and pour’ respectively. That makes furikake as close a Japanese translation of the word ‘sprinkles’ as I can imagine. No chocolate sprinkles here, however; instead we’re talking about savoury sprinkles for rice.
My wife has fond childhood memories of furikake selection packs: boxes of brightly-coloured sachets in various flavours, with which she was bribed into finishing otherwise nutritious meals. The closest equivalent for me was the Kellogg’s Cereal Variety Pack. Her favourites were salmon and egg-and-seaweed; mine were Honey Loops and the soon-to-be-discontinued Ricicles. Evidently, we come from different worlds!
More recently, I’ve acquired a comparatively sophisticated taste for unagi (eel) furikake, as I mentioned when introducing my salmon soboro recipe. While that would certainly be quite an effort to prepare at home – whoever buys eels? – I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own vegetarian furikake for a while.
The following recipe is the first I’ve tested, and it works perfectly sprinkled on simmered vegetables or mixed with slightly salted rice to make onigiri (rice balls). Coincidentally, it contains its own hint of nostalgia: the aroma of Chinese takeaway ‘crispy seaweed’!
recipe: savoy cabbage and sesame furikake
a simple vegetarian furikake for Japanese rice, onigiri and other dishes.
- 1/2 head savoy cabbage (small)
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 6 tbsps sesame seeds (black or white)
- Remove the white core of the cabbage and the thick leaf stems. Wash and chop the leaves as finely as possible.
- Squeeze as much moisture as possible from the chopped cabbage and wrap it in a clean tea towel. Leave the bundle in a colander over a sink or bowl for up to an hour, preferably under weight.
- Place the cabbage in a bowl and combine with the sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds.
- Spread the mixture evenly on a baking tray and toast in a cool oven until completely dry and crisp. Check often to avoid burning.
- Allow the furikake to cool completely on the tray before transferring to an airtight container for storage.