Furikake seasoning is one of the most popular Japanese seasonings, if not the most popular of all. It is a blend of ingredients that are indigenous to Japan. Those ingredients include nori, sesame seeds, and flakes of a dried tuna called bonito. The bonito flakes used in furikake have been dried, soaked with soy sauce, and then dried again. There are many furikake seasoning variations with ingredients as diverse as chili pepper flakes and miso powder.
Unlike most other Japanese ingredients, furikake seasoning is actually a relatively modern invention. Its precursor was created in the early 20th century at around the time that Japanese cooks began to recognize the existence of the fifth taste, umami. Furikake seasoning is a great source of umami, which is particularly important to Japanese cuisine. Umami refers to a meatiness or brothiness that is different from mere saltiness.
Furikake seasoning was first developed by a pharmacist named Suekichi Yoshimaru who originally intended the Japanese people to use it as a calcium supplement rather than a seasoning. The original blend was called gohan no tomo (friend of rice or friend for rice) and the ingredients included poppy seeds and fish bones along with sesame seeds and nori, the latter two of which continue to be included in present-day versions. Nori seaweed is a species of algae that is dried in sheets and used to make several Japanese dishes including sushi.
The spice blend shifted from being a supplement to a Japanese staple after World War II. At this point, Nissin Foods began producing and distributing it on a nationwide scale to combat malnutrition.
The love of furikake started out as a wholly Japanese phenomenon, but the spice blend is rapidly gaining acceptance in the United States and in Hawaii in particular.
Furikake seasoning flavor profile
As you might expect from the most common ingredients, the primary flavor of traditional furikake is of savoriness. The savoriness tends to come from the nori; it is also the first thing that you will detect from the aroma. There is additional umami along with a light briny note as a result of the bonito flakes; some versions may also contain freeze-dried salmon while others will have shiso as the main ingredient.
Health benefits of furikake seasoning
The spices used to make furikake seasoning make it a great source of these nutrients:
- Iodine: The nori in furikake is a great source of iodine; in fact, it may be the richest natural source of it.
- Protein: The bonito in furikake seasoning is not merely a source of the umami note, it also brings protein to the dish. Sesame seeds are another furikake ingredient with this nutrient.
- Calcium: Calcium deficiency is originally what furikake seasoning was meant to treat. The blend is a good source of it with the mineral coming from several components such as the seaweed and chile peppers.
- Vitamins: The nori in furikake is a good source of various vitamins, B vitamins in particular.
Because of these and other nutrients, furikake may help to treat or prevent conditions like:
- Osteoporosis: Furikake seasoning’s abundance of calcium and other minerals is helpful for slowing the rate at which bones lose their density.
- Thyroid ailments: Your thyroid needs iodine to function properly. The seaweed in furikake seasoning can be a good source of it. Consuming the right amount may be able to help forestall a variety of glandular problems.
- High cholesterol: Some furikake seasoning varieties may contain flax seeds, which can help to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood.
Furikake seasoning is traditionally a rice seasoning, though it can be used on other food items as well. Furikake seasoning has been used to top bean curd, rice balls called onigiri and on fish. Furikake is also one of the many toppings used for chazuke, a soup consisting of green tea poured over cooked rice. For some versions, dashi or plain water may be used instead of the green tea.
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