Chirashizushi (ちらしずし) is a traditional seafood and rice dish found throughout Japan.
It consists of various types of seafood, egg, and sometimes vegetables that are layered, or “scattered” on top of sushi rice (i.e. vinegared rice).
Chirashizushi is sometimes considered as a festive/celebratory food, and is perhaps best known to be eaten on Hinamatsuri (i.e. Doll’s Festival).
The word “chirashi” (ちらし) means “to scatter” or to spread in Japanese. Sushi (寿司) actually refers to any food made with vinegared rice. Sometimes the dish is simply referred to as “chirashi” for short.
Read on for more interesting info about chirashizushi:
The main ingredients of Chirashizushi are:
- Various seafood
There are many types / variations of chirashizushi, and technically no rules of what ingredients can be put on top.
The only constant is that vinegared rice must be used. Otherwise, it may be better referred to as kaisen-don (i.e. seafood rice bowl).
Some common ingredients used include sashimi (i.e. raw fish), egg, shrimp, eel, salmon roe, lotus root, tofu, and shiitake mushrooms.
For chirashizushi served during the Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival), each ingredient has its own special meaning. Here are a few examples:
- Shrimp: longevity
- Lotus root: the holes represent the ability to see the future
- Beans: Work and live diligently (have a strong and healthy life)Some areas in Japan have their own specialty chirashi. See below for more info:
Some areas in Japan have their own specialty chirashi. See below for more info:
Location / Regional Variations
Kanto / Tokyo Region
In Kanto Region (i.e. East Japan), chirashizushi is sashimi (i.e. raw fish) and other ingredients neatly layered over vinegared/sushi rice. It looks very similar to kaisen-don, except the rice is always vinegared rice.
In Kansai (i.e. West Japan), chirashizushi typically refers to vinegared rice with shredded egg, and other cooked ingredients like shrimp and tofu sprinkled on top. The main difference with the Kanto version is that raw fish is not used.
In Okayama, chirashizushi is known as “barazushi” バラ寿司 (i.e. rose sushi). It is technically a separate food from chirashizushi, although these days they two are used interchangeably. It is best characterized by having various ingredients mixed together with the rice (instead of just on top), and by having very large ingredients being placed on top of the rice.
Local ingredients are used such as mackerel and conger eel (i.e. anago).
Kyoto’s version of chirashizushi or barazushi is called “Tango Sushi” (丹後寿司). Tango is in reference to the name of a former province in norther Kyoto, not the dance. 💃
Its featured ingredient is boiled mackerel or canned mackerel, which is a local specialty of the region.
The rice is layered with with shredded mackerel in a box, then cut into squares and served. Sort of like a sushi lasagne. 😂
History / Origin of Chirazushi
There are many theories about the origin of chirashizushi.
One popular theory is that it originated in Okayama. The story goes something like this:
During the early Edo period, a lord in Okayama ordered his residents to be more frugal and only eat one dish and one soup as a meal. The residents passive aggressively rebelled, and added many vegetables and seafood hidden in a bowl of rice so that it could still be considered as “one dish”.
This was the birth of barazushi / chirashizushi. 😆
Fun Facts about Chirashizushi
- June 27th is Chirashi Sushi Day
Have you ever tried chirashizushi before? What did you think of it?
Let me know in the comments below!