Furikake - Japanese rice sprinkles

Because anything that is called sprinkles is instantly fun. Furikake actually means "sprinkle on top". Which is exactly what the Japanese do with furikake. It's sprinkled on top of rice to give it more flavour.The stories goes a pharmacist invented furikake in the early 20th century. The Japanese lacked calcium in their diets, so mr. Yoshimaru invented something to compensate. He dried calcium-rich fish, ground them and added several other ingredients and created a Gohan no Tomo ("Rice's Friend").

Let's skip straight to the recipe. This is a Western-style Furikake mainly because I came up with it myself. (I wonder how much I'll be scolded if a Japanese person comes across this.) If you like the idea of seaweed and rice, you should totally make this recipe! It takes roughly 10 minutes to make and it's really easy! In fact, I made it extra hard for you by making you to roast the sesame seeds. It yields about half a cup of furikake, which is enough for 1-2 family meals depending on how seasoned you like your rice. (In the pictures I used furikake to season onigiri, japanese triangle-shaped rice balls.)

Western-style Furikake

4 tablespoons wakame (dried seaweed)*
1 sheet nori sheet (more seaweed)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt

1. Shred the nori into small pieces. Chop the wakame into small pieces if needed.
2. Roast the nori, wakame and sesame seeds in a nonstick pan. As soon as the sesame seeds are golden brown, take off the heat and all the salt.
3. Leave to cool and put in a fancy jar or add to cooked rice straight away. You can use it to sprinkle on top of rice or to mix into cooked rice.

*If you don't have one of the seaweeds in your (Asian) supermarket, you can substitute one for the other. If you don't have either, you can either give up or get awesomely creative and use some of the suggestions below.

This is a very plain furikake and the kind that will keep longest. There are furikake recipes that use soy sauce or mirin which look really delicious, but if you're not Asian and you don't eat rice a lot like I do, these recipes will give you too much furikake that will only last a week or two. I found this recipe to be a very nice alternative.

Ah yes, since it's so simple, please feel free to add any extra ingredients you like. I've seen recipes using chilli flakes, bonito flakes (fish), dried umeboshi (pickled plums), dried carrots, sunflower seeds, dried tuna or shrimps and, actually I could go on forever.. Since furikake simply means "sprinkle on top", there are endless variations. Most recipes will use anything dried you can imagine, but there are even some that will use fresh ingredients.

Personally, I was very surprised to hear furikake is quite a recent invention and it was originally made for medical purposes. Furikake is a Japanese standard addition to rice for both breakfast and dinner. Imagine finding out that salt was not originally a seasoning, but a medicine. Then again, I suppose the Dutch have the same problem with liquorice. We don't seem to be very bothered by the fact that our candy is used as medicine in most countries. Actually, didn't cola also start out as medicine?