The Japanese are experts at elevating any dish with umami goodness, whether they are using seaweed, fish, mushrooms, or one of the many savory ingredients common across the country’s cuisine. But perhaps one of the most versatile sources of umami is furikake. This ultra-savory seasoning is typically a mix of dried fish, seaweed, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar, and it can be sprinkled on everything from jammy soft boiled eggs to a bed of fluffy rice.
Furikake’s first iteration was developed during Japan’s Taishō period by a pharmacist named Suekichi Yoshimaru. The people of Japan were experiencing a calcium deficiency at the time, so he created a blend of dried fish bones, sesame, poppy seeds, and seaweed that was ground into a fine powder. This early product was called Gohan no Tomo, which translates to “a friend for rice.” A food company purchased his formula and sold it commercially, but it wasn’t until Nissan Foods began to manufacture it on a large scale in 1948 that it became readily available. The National Furikake Association was formed in 1959, and furikake was the name given to the category of seasoning.
Furikake is available at Japanese markets and sometimes in the international aisle of U.S. grocery stores. But if you can’t seem to find it or feel like taking on a fun project, it’s really easy to whip up your own. To find out more about how to make this condiment at home, and how to use it in everyday cooking, we chatted with Chef Peter Jin of the newly-opened Wild Ink in NYC’s Hudson Yards.
Wild Ink mixes pan-Asian flavors with worldly influences that Jin comes across on his travels — think dishes like General Tso’s Sweetbreads, Japanese Risotto, and Vanilla-Cured Salmon from the raw bar. He’s used furikake in many of his kitchens, and it’s one of the ingredients in the Salmon Crudo at Wild Ink. “In my opinion, furikake pairs best with fish, whether it’s cooked or sashimi-style,” he says. “But it’s very versatile on savory dishes or snacks. For example, it can be used as a seasoning on popcorn or to season cooked rice for more flavor.”
If you want to spice it up in your own kitchen, check out Jin’s easy-to-make furikake recipe that’ll turn almost anything into a savory, umami-packed flavor bomb.
Wild Ink’s Furikake Recipe
- 50 g crispy salmon skin
- 10 g black sesame seeds
- 10 g white sesame seeds
- 20 g nori, toasted and crushed
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl and reserve.
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