Written by: Ken from Majime Life
Japanese cuisine is renowned for its exquisite flavours and attention to detail. Among the various condiments in Japan that add a burst of umami and texture to dishes, furikake is a beloved staple that can be used in almost any meal setting. It is a versatile seasoning that has become popular worldwide for its ability to enhance the taste of various foods. In this blog post, we look at the origins of furikake and introduce an easy way to make it at home so that you can add it to your bento boxes (and any meal for that matter).
The origin of furikake
Furikake, which literally translates to "sprinkle to cover", is a traditional Japanese condiment that dates back to the early 20th century. It was first introduced by a pharmacist named Suekichi Yoshimaru as a way to address malnutrition in Japan. The original furikake blend was created with a combination of sesame seeds, nori seaweed, and ground fish or shellfish, thereby providing essential nutrients such as calcium and iodine.
Today, furikake has evolved into a myriad of flavours and ingredients, and supermarket aisles in Japan are lined with so many kinds and brands that it might almost be impossible to keep track of what’s what. Even different regions within Japan will have their own spin and take on it. But the fundamentals remain the same - it is typically made by mixing together a base set of ingredients like dried seaweed, sesame seeds, bonito flakes, and salt. Additional ingredients like dried fish, vegetables, spices, or even fruits can be included to create unique and flavourful variations. Having said that, there are even furikake which consist of only one key ingredient (like fish flakes). Like so many things Japanese, it has a deep history and technicality to its creation.
Homemade furikake: Easy peasy version
As a very mediocre cook, I want nothing better than an easy 10 min recipe that is both yummy and ticks all nutritional checkboxes. But then I end up with a bento menu repertoire of two. That’s why I like to sprinkle furikake over my rice bento to at least make it taste (and look) that much better. While I often default to buying a furikake premix from the supermarket which admittedly tastes great 99% of the time, sometimes I will make one at home to appease my inner guilt of not trying harder.
So here’s a very easy homemade furikake recipe that you can make in bulk to spruce up your bento. It is a bonito flake based furikake, called ‘Okaka’ in Japanese, and is probably the simplest of all furikake to make.
Ingredients to prepare
You will need to get a few ingredients from the supermarket, most probably an Asian/Japanese one.
- 40g bonito flakes (adjust amounts below accordingly if making a bigger batch)
- They look like the picture below
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cooking sake
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- White sesame seeds and shredded seaweed
This will be a very easy recipe:
- In a small saucepan, add the mirin, soy sauce, cooking sake, sugar and water. Low to medium heat. Bring to boil while mixing.
- Add 40g of bonito flakes to a frying pan on low heat.
- Add the sauce mixture to the bonito flakes.
- Keep mixing with chopsticks on low heat until almost dried out, about 5-10mins. If you use a spatula, it may stick quite a lot, so use a pair of chopsticks.
- Add the sesame seeds and shredded seaweed.
- Mix for another 2-3 minutes until well distributed.
- Transfer to an airtight container. These will keep for at least a month in the fridge, or freeze it, but it's highly likely they will be devoured before that.
Here are some ideas on what to use your newly made furikake for.
- Sprinkle on rice. This is the most basic but most common way to use furikake.
- Onigiri rice ball. While you can sprinkle furikake onto a neatly moulded onigiri, you can also mix it up into the rice beforehand so that you get a really tasty riceball. Plus it will look very appetizing too when organizing your bento box.
- Soba salad. This is a great dish in summer. After boiling the soba noodles, you can mix it with tomato and lettuce. With a soba salad, you can pour a wafu dressing (made with soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and mirin) onto the salad/noodle mix. You can then sprinkle some furikake onto the noodles, and this adds some texture and an added flavour to the salad.
- Hot chips/French fries. You wouldn’t think it, but the combination of fried potato and furikake is absolutely divine.
- Cold tofu (“Hiya yakko”). This is a cold dish of just tofu and soy sauce with a simple topping of ginger or spring onions. You can also complement it with a bit of furikake.
- Steamed vegetables. Again, just sprinkle over any steamed vegetable like broccoli or spinach, and it will add a lot more texture and umami.
- Mix with a dip like mayonnaise. Ok, there may be a limit on the type of dip you can mix with furikake, but mayonnaise is definitely one you can. It adds a bit of crunch and salty/sweet flavour.
As you can see, there really isn’t any limitation of how to use furikake, and it’s as simple as sprinkling over your dish (hence ‘furikake’!).
Japanese furikake is a versatile condiment that adds depth, flavour, and texture to a wide range of dishes, including your bento. With this simple recipe, can start to create your own variations and spruce up your meals. So, why not sprinkle some furikake over your next dish and savour a delightful flavour of Japan?