Hinamatsuri (Doll’s festival) is a special day in Japan, held on 3rd March, where we pray for the growth and happiness of young girls.
In my home town of Yamanashi, we celebrate Hinamatsuri in April, we’re a little later than the rest of Japan. Apparently in the Maiji period the Japanese government changed to a solar based calendar, which in effect brought the event forward by a month. In Yamanashi they stuck with the older time and so April it is!
Traditionally, when a baby girl is born, her parents or grandparents give her a set of Hina dolls, or they pass down their own set. My daughter Hana was given two beautiful Hina dolls by my mother recently, in preparation for Hinamatsuri.
Every year, these dolls are dressed in costume and displayed on a stand. There is also a superstition that if the dolls are left on the stand when the festival is over, it will bring them bad luck and they will not marry for a long time! So young girls quickly put their dolls away after the festival.
As well as this doll tradition, there are special foods that are eaten on the day too. Including; shirozake (a customary sake drink made from fermented rice), hina-arare (bite-sized filled crackers), ushiojiru (clam soup) and Chirashizushi (sushi rice topped with raw fish and other toppings) – this is the recipe I will be sharing today.
Chirashizushi translates as “scattered sushi” and makes a very quick and easy meal, when you want something to eat and fast!
Classic kaisen chirashi sushi – Seafood chirashi sushi
1 sheet of nori
400–600g sushi rice
1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
4 king prawns, raw or cooked, shells on
200g fresh, sushi-quality tuna steak
200g fresh, sushi-quality salmon, skinned and boned (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
1 fillet of fresh, sushi-quality sea bream, skinned
4 tablespoons of tobiko, masago, ikura or lumpfish roe, to garnish
1 tablespoon of cress, to garnish
Cut the nori into very thin strips (2mm x 20mm), using scissors. Place the sushi rice into 4 shallow bowls. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and nori on top of the rice.
If using raw prawns, do not remove the heads and shells. Hold a prawn with one hand and take a bamboo skewer in the other. Pointing the skewer away from the head of the prawn, push the skewer between the shell and body towards the tail, making sure the prawn is straight. Repeat with the remaining prawns.
Put plenty of water into a saucepan, add salt and bring to the boil, then add the prawns and cook for about 2–3 minutes. They will turn bright pink when they are done. Do not overcook them or they will be tough. Remove the prawns from the saucepan and quickly rinse them under cold running water. Drain, place them on paper towels and leave them to cool down completely. Once cool, remove the skewers.
Carefully peel the shells off the cooked prawns, but leave the tails on.
Place the tuna on a chopping board. Supporting it very gently with your fingers, slice it against the grain at a 20-degree angle into 8 pieces.
Repeat with the salmon. Place the sea bream on the chopping board, and supporting it very gently with your fingers, slice it against the grain at a 20-degree angle into 16 very thin pieces.
Place all the prepared fish and seafood on the rice and nori. Garnish with the fish roe and cress, and serve with soy sauce and wasabi on the side.