Originally created as a calcium rich dietary supplement to combat malnutrition in the working classes and the soldiers of the First World War, furikake rice topping has since become a store-cupboard staple found in nearly every Japanese household. First marketed by pharmacists during the 1910s, it went by many names including ‘Kore Wa Umai’ or ‘This is Good’ before it was christened furikake in the late 1950s. Since then the make-up of the seasoning has evolved down multiple pathways creating an almost endless variety of flavours, nearly all of them based around the standard elements of seaweed, sesame seeds, salt and dried fish products.
The first step of many Japanese recipes is making dashi, a mellow broth of kombu and katsuobushi that forms a solid foundation upon which you base the rest of your dish. Once the stock has been drained and used, the seaweed and bonito flakes are normally discarded, but they contain far too much flavour to simply throw away, so we like to recycle these unwanted ingredients into our own homemade furikake. When combined with toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce and mirin the result is a deeply savoury condiment with a hint of smoky nuttiness that’s perfect for topping a bowl of hot steamed rice, mixing into an onigiri or even scattering over a fresh batch of popcorn.
- 4 heaped tablespoons leftover katsuobushi flakes, finely chopped
- 1 heaped tablespoon leftover kombu, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon demerara sugar
- 1/2- 1 teaspoon salt
- Start by toasting the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan, keeping them moving in the pan to make sure they don’t burn; you’re looking for a light golden colour. When they’re toasted, tip the seeds out into a small bowl and set aside for later.
- Pour the sesame oil into the frying pan, then add the leftover kombu and katsuobushi, and fry over a medium heat for a minute or so. Now add the remaining ingredients, and continue to cook for around ten minutes- stirring continuously- until the liquid has completely evaporated and you are left with a dry sandy mass. Mix the toasted sesame seeds into the furikake, and tip it out into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Serve on top of steamed rice. It can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Makes 6 heaped tablespoons of furikake (enough to top 6 portions of rice).