Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hina Matsuri

Here in Japan, it's Hina Matsuri - a festival held on March 3, and involving girls and dolls. I'll leave it to Wikipedia to flesh out the details, but traditional foods for Hina Matsuri include coloured puffed rice, clams (the two shells joined are meant to evoke, ahem, devotion and fidelity), and one of my favourite dishes, chirashi-sushi.

Chirashi-sushi, often translated as scattered sushi, is a layer of su meshi (sushi rice) topped with a variety of things, usually some sort of roe, dry-egg omelette strips, fish, and nori. You can buy chirashi sushi in most supermarkets ready to take home and be eaten, but I decided to make my own, because who doesn't love getting up early and making sushi rice first thing in the morning?

Actually, I would have just bought some, but I knew I wouldn't have time to go to the supermarket before work, and I didn't want to risk missing out if my supermarket was sold out by the time of my afternoon break.

I chose smoked salmon for my fish, and tried to make the dry-egg omelette, but alas it was too thick to pass proper muster. It tasted okay anyway, but looked nowhere near as elegant as proper dry-egg strips. For a green accent, I used radish sprouts, which also added a nice peppery note to the fish.

I love this dish because, like most great dishes, all of the separate ingredients combine to form more than the sum of its parts. The faint tang of the sushi rice cuts the oiliness of the salmon, and the sharp green sprouts give a little heat to the otherwise cool dish. The egg provides colour contrast and softness. Every bite is a little different, as each element comes to the forefront and recedes, depending on the luck of the chopsticks. And as with most Japanese dishes, the look of the dish is just as important as the taste. The pinks, yellows, and greens remind me of Easter eggs - in colours, but as well the eggs and sprouts as ingredients evoke Spring and renewal.

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