Furikake is the known as rice's best friend here in Japan. It's a type of popular seasoning made of mostly of nori flakes and dried fish almost everyone loves. This article will describe what it is, the popular flavors of furikake and where to buy it while you are visiting Japan!
Furikake is basically dried food meant to be sprinkled over rice primarily, but also over vegetables and sometimes fish or other dishes. It is often made of dried fish, sesame seeds and sea weed. It also contains sugar and salt. There are many variations of the seasoning however. More on that in the flavors of furikake section below!
Interestingly furikake is a fairly recent addition to the Japan's ancient food culture. It appeared during the early part of the 20th century in the southern island of Kyushu. According to one theory, it was developed as a calcium supplement for the Japanese. The original version of furikake used calcium-rich ingredients such as fish bones, sesame seeds and seaweed, and it was called "gohan no tomo", literally meaning the friend of rice. It's not until FUTABA, a Japanese manufacturer starting commercializing the seasoning in 1934 that the furikake really became a staple of the Japanese kitchen. FUTABA's brand (see picture above) is still available with the same name!
Nowadays we can find all kinds of furikake seasoning. Salmon or bonito furikake seasoning are popular choices. We see here that this one also contains flakes of yaki nori (grilled nori with oil which brings up the flavor) and sesame seeds. If you love nori chips, you will surely love these kinds of nori furikake!
Tamaruya, a company specializing in wasabi products, makes popular wasabi furikake in the Shizuoka prefecture. People buy some as gifts when visiting the region. You can easily find other good wasabi brands if you are somewhere else in Japan.
Futaba also makes some furikake from yuzu (a kind of Japanese citrus) and ginger that are quite delicious! Futaba is a well-known furikake brand in Japan. The Mizkan brand is also very popular and makes all kinds of other Japanese condiments.
There are now countless types of furikake availble on the market. The one above contains cherry blossoms-shaped flakes and is a limited spring edition item. It has a sour plum taste, which is quite popular among Japanese as a furikake. Foreigners tend to like the spicy furikake which contains flakes of hot peppers. The furikiake you will like really depends on your taste. If you like something a little sour, try one with some umeboshi, dried plums in it. If you like just a simple salty taste with "umami" then the nori furikake with dried fish flakes is the one should try.
A very Japanese way of using the furikake seasoning is by sprinkling the rice of your bento box. With that, you're ready for the perfect picnic under the cherry blossoms!
Where To Buy Furikake
Just head to the nearest supermarket when you are in Japan. There are whole sections of furikake with all kinds of delicious flavors. Convenience stores hold a few kinds too. They are cheap, rarely exceeding 500 yen and make great gifts! If you live abroad, you can order furikake online from many big e-retailers!
If you don't have an idea what to eat, you can just start by cooking a bowl of rice and adding some furikake to it. The nori flakes are really good for you too, as seaweeds contain lots of minerals and vitamins. With just a bowl of rice and some nori furikake for instance, you'll have half of a meal prepared!