Furikake on white rice
Shrimp, egg and seaweed furikake
"Hello Kitty" furikake for children
Furikake on rice as part of a bento
A selection of furikake on sale in a supermarket
A very Japanese condiment
Furikake is a nutritional condiment of seaweed and dried fish that the Japanese sprinkle on rice. Nowadays children love furikake, although it was originally created for adults and used in the military!
A condiment based on seaweed and fish, furikake is a must in Japanese cuisine.
What is furikake?
In a corner of every Japanese family kitchen there is furikake, it's an indispensable element, like salt and pepper. Literally furikake means "sprinkle", because it is a condiment that is sprinkled on white rice to add nutrients and flavor.
Furikake is mainly made from dried fish, seaweed and sesame powder. The taste is salty, rather than sweet. It's a great bento accompaniment, and is often used in the preparation of onigiri.
The origin of furikake
The tale of furikake begins in the Taisho era (1912-1926), during which the Japanese lacked calcium because dairy products weren't as prevalent as today. It was then that a pharmacist from Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu had the idea to create a food supplement to accompany rice, based on dried fish bones crushed and mixed with small pieces of seaweed and sesame seeds. Furikake was born! And from then on it was a hit, with both the taste buds and bodies of the Japanese.
Furikake goes to war
During the First World War, the Japanese army needed something nutritional to sustain the long hours of combat. It was also necessary to have food that was easy to preserve. This is when the government asked a tsukemono manufacturer to find something to accompany the rice rations of the soldiers. Furikake was the best solution, and started being produced on a large scale.
For young and old
Until the 1960s furikake remained an adult food supplement. Then the market also developed for children, altering the taste and marketing to appeal to the youth. Pouches of furikake with stickers, games, and pictures of cartoon characters soon won over the young. The marketing worked so well that a 1990 survey showed that after the age of 12 the Japanese no longer consumed furikake!
Read also: Japanese seaweed
As a result, manufacturers have been rethinking the product and creating furikake specifically targeted for adults: flavored with wasabi, mentaiko (spicy cod roe), or rare seaweed... and the popularity among adults has grown once more thanks to this renewal of advertising. Today the whole family consumes furikake, according to their tastes.