Even better: It’s relatively easy to make — no professional sushi skills required

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WITH THE RECENT popularity of poke, bibimbap, Buddha bowls and virtually anything in a bowl, we cannot overlook the simple yet luxurious chirashi, a traditional Japanese dish primarily of fish and rice. This artistic rice bowl has it all: It’s sweet, sour, salty, spicy, crunchy, silky and colorful.

If you’re daunted by making nigiri or rolls at home, fear not. Chirashi is relatively easy to make, with no professional sushi skills required. Just pick up the ingredients beforehand (at Uwajimaya or a Japanese market) and seek out quality sashimi, and you are ready to assemble your beautiful bowl.

While chirashi is eaten throughout Japan, it varies by region. And, given that the word chirashi means scattered, liberties may be taken both in content and presentation. Rice may compose the bottom layer of the bowl or be mixed with other ingredients. Fish and vegetables may be cooked or raw. You can’t go wrong.

At Sushi Kappo Tamura in Seattle, executive chef Taichi Kitamura offers bara chirashi on the lunch and dinner menus (the word bara is onomatopoeic in Japanese, also meaning scattered). “It is a very popular item,” Kitamura says. “There’s a great flavor balance.” The chef often makes chirashi at home, and it always appears at his Thanksgiving table, along with turkey.

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Kitamura, who grew up in Kyoto, taught me how to make a simple version of bara chirashi, omitting the sweet egg omelet (tamago) that traditionally appears in the dish. In this recipe, he showcases Northwest salmon and albacore, but other fish like ahi or yellowtail may be used instead.

In a large bowl, I layered the seasoned rice, seaweed, pickled ginger, cubed raw tuna and salmon, cucumber and orange orbs of roe. With chopsticks, my husband and I devoured the contents. The chirashi was an explosion of flavors and textures, and as colorful as a painter’s palette.

Did I mention it’s in a bowl?

 

Bara Chirashi

Serves 4

 

Chef Taichi Kitamura created this Northwest version with albacore and salmon, but other fish, like yellowtail or ahi, may be substituted.

 

2 cups short-grain rice

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons cane sugar

½ tablespoon sea salt

5 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon wasabi

6 ounces quality albacore tuna (or other tuna sold for sushi/sashimi)

6 ounces quality king or sockeye salmon for sushi/sashimi (or buy it fresh, freeze it at least three days, then thaw it)

2 ounces pickled sushi ginger, finely chopped

2 sheets nori seaweed, shredded or torn into small pieces

3 ounces ikura (salted salmon roe)

6 ounces English or Persian cucumber, chopped in half-inch cubes (peel on)

 

1. Cook the rice in a rice cooker according to instructions on the package. (If you don’t have a rice cooker, a pot with a lid can be used.)

2. While the rice is cooking, mix the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan, and heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat.

3. When rice is done, place it in a large mixing bowl, and add the vinegar mixture to season the rice. Stir gently without mashing the rice. Let it cool.

4. In a medium bowl, mix the soy sauce and wasabi.

5. Cut the tuna and salmon into half-inch cubes. Place in a bowl with soy sauce and wasabi, and mix.

6. Spread the rice in a layer in the bottom of a large shallow bowl. Top it with the ginger and seaweed.

7. Place the seasoned fish, salmon roe and cucumbers on top of the rice. Serve it immediately, family-style, with additional wasabi, if desired.

Sushi Kappo Tamura