Furikake: Magical flakes that make rice delicious
In Japan where rice is a staple food in almost every meal, people have creatively come up with various side dishes to accompany it over the years. Furikake is one of them. Furikake is a mixture of dried ingredients chopped small, and has managed to establish itself as a side dish despite it only being a seasoning shaken over the rice. It can act as a preserved food as well as a portable dish and it is highly nutritious. The origin of the name comes from the flakes being “furikake”ru (sprinkled) over rice. All Japanese have grown up with the furikake since childhood and it is one of the most familiar foods. Recently, there are many nations even overseas where the popularity of the furikake is rising.
Why so popular?
Many of the Japanese furikake use nori seaweed and/or sesame seeds, which gives it a great aroma and flavor. Because the stock is often taken from the bonito fish or kelp, it has *umami and is delicious.
*Umami: In Japan, besides the four known flavors of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, there is an additional concept called “umami”
1. Onigiri, for when you’re on the go
2. Bento (lunch box), for a meal on the go
Aside from being used as seasoning, it is also commonly used in bento boxes at school Sports Day events (Undokai) because of its exciting bright coloring. This gives the children energy!
3. Ochazuke, for breakfast or to finish up a night of drinking
As something similar to furikake, there is ochazuke (similar to porridge; a dish made by pouring tea, stock, or hot water over cooked rice). When you pour the ochazuke base over rice and then pour tea over that, the umami of the stock will be maximized. It is the most delicious thing ever!
Multitude of Flavors
There are many flavor options for furikake. The most popular is the “noritama” flavor, which is a mixture of dry nori seaweed and egg flakes and has been loved by the common people of Japan for over 50 years. Today there are many other flavors that represent Japan such as takoyaki (savory fried balls with a piece of octopus at the center), okonomiyaki (pan-fried Japanese savory pancake), yakiniku (grilled beef), sukiyaki (stew-like dish with meat, vegetables, tofu, etc.), wasabi, yuzu (lime-like citrus fruit), etc. There are also many flavors created in collaboration with the local signature products nationwide, to the point where the actual number of flavors out there is beyond comprehension.
The quickest way to try furikake would be at an Izakaya (casual Japanese eatery) the next time you visit Japan. Order some ochazuke after a night of drinking, at the very end. This is the best way to enjoy it :)