Furikake, the savory Japanese seasonings for sprinkling on rice, merits an entire section even in Manhattan’s tinyest Japanese markets. And if you’ve had it, you understand why: It enlivens a plain bowl of rice—add some mayo[link to Japanese Mayo recipe] and a fried egg and you can call it a meal (I relied heavily on furikake when I lived in a dorm room with just a rice cooker for making dinner). Furikake taste good on almost any savory food you can imagine; you’ll find yourself shaking it onto salad, popcorn, and soup.
The simplest versions of furikake include as few as two ingredients, usually dried fish and seaweed. That might sound like a very fishy flavor, but it’s more salty and umami (think miso soup, not canned sardines). You’ll see mixtures with bits of dried egg, shrimp, salmon roe, shiso, wasabi, and even buttered potato (I doubt that last one is natural). They come in jars for shaking into your bowl and in packets that are meant to be mixed with rice for omusubi (rice balls).
For me, the point of making my own furikake is to choose straightforward ingredients with clear flavors. My basic recipe starts with sesame seeds, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), and toasted nori seaweed. You can use flavored nori to add the taste of soy sauce or teriyaki, or nori that is already flaked, but I prefer sheets like you would use for sushi. If I can find tiny dried anchovies or shrimp, I’ll add those too—I especially like shrimp for the pretty color they add. I season mine liberally with salt and sugar, but if you use flavored nori, you may want to back off on the salt. —Hannah Kirshner
In a dry frying pan over high heat, toast the sesame seeds, constantly shaking the pan, until they smell toasty, about 1 minute. Immediately transfer them to a bowl so they don’t continue cooking.
If your nori is not crisp enough to crumble easily, you can toast it for about 30 seconds by waving it over a gas flame, or placing it under a broiler. Be careful not to burn it! Crumble the nori into the bowl with the sesame seeds.
Crumble the bonito flakes into the bowl with the sesame seeds and nori. Add the tiny dried shrimp and anchovies, if using.
Season the mixture with salt and sugar, and mix thoroughly. Transfer it to an airtight jar. This will keep indefinitely, but the flavor is best in the first month or two.
What does a farm girl in Brooklyn do with a painting degree from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and an obsession with food? Start a visually rich culinary publication! Write about cooking, develop recipes, and become a food stylist. Grow vegetables even if it's one scraggly tomato plant hanging from a fire escape, and find a way to keep chickens whether on a rooftop, in a neighbor's empty lot, a community garden, or the rare urban backyard (I've tried them all).
On our small family farm in Washington state, I learned how food grows—and a deep respect for nature and agriculture—by helping to cultivate vegetables and raise chickens, goats and sheep. I continued to study food by working my way through the chain of production: harvesting herbs on an organic farm, selling specialty produce, serving farm-to-table food, baking artisan pastries and selling them at farmers markets, creating artful wedding cakes, developing and implementing craft cocktail programs, and testing and developing recipes for publications.