For those of you that have never had it, chirashi sushi i a bowl of vinegared sushi rice topped with a bunch of colorful stuff. At most sushi restaurants this means covering the rice with slices of various raw fish, but that's not always how it's made.
Growing up my mom used to make a vegetarian version with simmered shitake mushrooms, carrots, egg, sugar peas and benishoga (red ginger) for any potluck or party we'd go to. It makes for a great party dish because it's something you eat at room temperature and the ticker-tape-confetti of toppings makes it look very festive.
My rendition is a bit more extravagant, capturing the essence of the sea. The ingredients aren't cheap, but it's still cheaper than going to a local sushi restaurant and it isn't nearly as hard to prepare as it looks. I made this in about an hour, but if you make some of the stuff ahead of time it can be assembled in even less time.
If you're squeamish about uni (or any of the other ingredients) you could obviously sub them out, but steamed uni is not nearly as off-putting as the raw kind they have at sushi restaurants. Cooking it gives it more structure making it more cheese like in texture (though not flavour) while retaining its sweet creaminess.
For sushi rice
- making the shitake
- Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan (including the 2 Tbs of reserved soaking liquid). If you're using fresh shitake mushrooms, just replace the soaking liquid with water. Boil until the mushrooms have absorbed most of the liquid and are a nice brown color about 5-10 minutes. Cool then squeeze out the excess liquid. You can make this up to a couple days in advance
- making the uni
- Add some water to a pot and insert a steamer rack, cover and boil. Lay the uni in a shallow bowl that will fit in your steamer then cover with mirin and a few pinches of salt. Once the steamer is hot, put the bowl in the steamer, cover and return to a boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat (without opening the lid) and allow it to continue steaming for 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the steamer, cover and allow to cool. You can make this up to a day in advance
- making the tamago
- Beat all the ingredients for the tamago together until well combined. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat then use a paper towel to apply a thin layer of oil. Add the egg and using chopsticks, scramble. When the egg has mostly solidified, start scrambling vigorously to break up the curds. You want to cook this a little longer than you normally would for soft scrambled eggs, but you don't want them to be tough or chewy. Transfer to a bowl, cover and allow to cool. You can make these up to a day in advance.
- for the rice
- Cook the rice in a rice cooker using a little less water than you normally would. You don't want the rice to be tough, but it should be on the firm side as you will be adding more liquid to it after it is cooked.
- While the rice is cooking put the vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl and microwave for a minute and stir. If the sugar and salt isn't completely dissolved keep microwaving until it is.
- For the next step you may want to get a helper. You're going to be mixing the vinegar solution with the rice while fanning it to cool it off quickly. Unless you have an electric fan handy, I'd suggest having one person fan while the other one stirs.
- When the rice is done, dump it into a large flat bottomed bowl and spread it out. The serving platter I used was a bad choice, so if you don't have the traditional wooden sushi oke, trying using a large roasting pan or glass pyrex. The idea is that you want to maximize the surface area of rice so it cools quickly.
- Pour most of the vinegar mixture over the rice (you don't want to pour so much on that the rice gets mushy, but it should be wet and glistening). Start fanning and use a large flat spatula or rice spoon to gently stir the rice using circular spreading motions. You don't want to mash, cut, or otherwise break apart the grains of rice, but you also want to make sure the vinegar is evenly distributed while preventing the rice from sticking together too much. Keep stirring and fanning until the rice is at room temperature, the grains of rice should be intact and each grain should glisten.
- Once the rice is ready, put it in a serving platter and top with sesame seeds. Scatter a few tablespoons of tobiko, then sprinkle on the shitake mushrooms and some of the shiso. Crumble the tamago and uni on top. Finish with a few tablespoons of ikura and crab (optional) then top with the remaining shiso.
- You'll want to serve this as soon as possible. If you have leftovers, put them in the fridge and when you want to eat it, let it come to room temperature before eating. You won't want to eat it cold as the rice will be hard and you certainly don't want to heat it in a microwave.