The Secret to Making Scattered Sushi Bowls

Unlike other popular types of sushi which are served as rolls, the lesser-known Chirashi sushi, meaning ‘scattered sushi’, is not shaped by hand but served in a box or bowl.

Chirashi Sushi Bowl

History of chirashi sushi

Chirashi sushi is not widely available outside of Japan and therefore isn’t often recognised by foreigners as sushi. However, due to the simplicity of how it’s made, chirashi sushi is a favourite home-cooked meal throughout Japan.

The dish is a variation of Edomae sushi which originated in Tokyo (previously Edo) during the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912). Fresh seafood from Tokyo Bay were essential ingredients to the original form of chirashi sushi which favoured raw toppings.

To assemble the dish, fresh toppings are layered over sushi rice in a large bowl creating a beautiful array of vibrant colours. Some home cooks and chefs will also add small edible flowers or fish eggs for extra character, making it a great simple dish to impress family and friends.

Chirashi sushi ingredients

Chirashi Sushi Ingredients

When it comes to ingredients for the toppings there is a lot of variation. For home cooks, it usually comes down to personal preference and access to ingredients. However, there are fundamental ingredients common to all styles of chirashi:

Sushi Meshi – Sushi meshi, also known as shari, is the vinegared rice used in Japanese sushi. It was typically seasoned with sugar and salt as well.

Sushi Neta – Besides the rice, sushi neta refers to the ingredients in chirashi sushi. This includes fish, seafood, vegetables, and other garnishes.

how to eat chirashi sushi

True to Japanese food culture, there is a right way and a wrong way to eat this dish. The most common mistake people make is pouring soy sauce directly over chirashi sushi. This is frowned upon and considered bad manners as the soy sauce turns the rice brown and makes the dish less attractive. Beyond this, soaking the rice in soy sauce may take away from the delicate flavours of the sushi rice and ingredients.

Japanese Sushi Rice

If you want to impress everyone with your good manners, you should eat chirashi sushi like you would any other kind of sushi; with a small separate bowl for soy sauce which you can then dip mouthfuls of the rice into.

Reiko’s recipe for chirashi sushi

This special Kansai-style Chirashi Sushi recipe was created by our Japanese Cookaway Chef Reiko Hashimoto.

Reiko's Chirashi Sushi

Sushi Rice Recipe

  • 3 cups short- grain white rice
  • 3¼   cups water (or 10% more than rice)

Sushi vinegar/seasoning

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp concentrated DASHI stock or powdered DASHI stock
  • Or
  • ¾ cup pre-made sushi seasoning

1.  Put all ingredients for Sushi vinegar in the saucepan and heat up gently to mix them well. Simmer gently for about 10 min until slightly thickened.

2.  Place rice in the pan you will use.  Lightly rinse the rice with cold water and drain. Repeat these three or four times so that water becomes almost clear.  Drain and then fill water with the right amount in the pan you will be cooking the rice and leave rice soaked for at least 30 minutes. You can soak the rice for up to 5 hours. If the soaking time is longer, the cooking time becomes slightly less.

3a. To cook rice in a rice cooker; Just switch it on after the above process. When rice is cooked, the rice cooker automatically switches to the “keep warm” position but do not keep warm. You need to take the plug off to rest without any heat. Then allow the rice to stand for 15 minutes.

3b. To cook rice in a saucepan; Cover the pan tightly then bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for about 12-15 minutes or until water is absorbed, making sure the lid is on all the time.  Remove from the heat, and then allow the rice to stand for 15 minutes, keeping the lid on.

4.  Spread the cooked rice in a wide & flat-bottomed bowl (preferably wood) while the rice is still steaming hot.  Gradually pour in the sushi seasoning and mix with a wooden large flat spatula as if cutting through the lumps of rice, and separate grain at a sharp angle and fold over.  You must not stir otherwise rice grain will be crushed and becomes lumpy.  Continue folding rice gently and funning at the same time by using the other hand until the rice becomes room temperature. Fanning is particularly important as is the most efficient way to cool the rice temperature quickly.  Rice should be shiny and sticky.  Keep a damp cloth over rice to stop rice drying out and getting hardened until use.

*You must not use a stainless-steel bowl, a ceramic bowl or the pan you cooked the rice in because they will keep the heat and condensation and change the texture of the rice.

Chirashi Sushi Toppings

  • 3 eggs, beaten with pinch of salt
  • 80g mange touts
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 sheets deep fried tofu
  • 10 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 2 hours
  • 200g tinned bamboo shoots
  • 8 crab sticks, smoked salmon, or cooked prawns
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 2 tbsp mirin

1. Cut carrots and bamboo shoots into 2cm x 10cm blocks. Boil water in a small pan and quickly blanch the deep-fried tofu and drain.

2. Heat the ½ cup of water, soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin and mushrooms together with the water, which mushrooms were soaked in a saucepan and bring to boil. Add the carrots, bamboo shoots and deep-fired tofu then turn down the heat to simmer and cook for about 30 min or until the cooking liquid is reduced by 1/3 and all the ingredients absorbed the flavour.  Leave them to cool.

3. Heat a small frying pan and pour the egg mixture into the pan. Spread the egg all over the pan into a very thin then quickly turn it over for 10 seconds. Empty the omelette onto a chopping board. Repeat this to make 3-4 very thin omelettes.  Make sure the pan is very hot and use a little oil, or eggs will stick to the pan.  Leave them to cool then slice them as thin as possible.

4. Branch the mangetout with a pinch of salt for 30 seconds, drain under cold water and leave them to cool. Cut them diagonally into thin sticks. Cut the crab sticks or smoked salmon or cooked prawns into bite sizes.

5. Squeeze the mushroom then chop them into long & very thin slices, one half will be for the topping and the other half for mixing into the rice. Finely chop the carrots and bamboo shoots.

6. Add the carrots, bamboo shoots, deep-fried tofu and one-half of the mushrooms into sushi rice and mix them gently by adding the cooking juice from the mushrooms and vegetables. Mix them well.

7. Cover the rice with sliced eggs. Assemble other half of the mushrooms, mange touts and crabsticks, salmon, or prawns over eggs. You may add the pickled ginger if you wish.

If you want to learn more about Japanese cooking, explore Chef Reiko Hashimoto’s amazing range of Japanese recipes.