We are very familiar with Maki rolls in the west, but there are several different types of sushi in Japan. One of the more interesting kinds of sushi is the Chirashizushi, which is served in a bowl rather than almost all other types of sushi which are shaped by hand. Created by necessity this dish has now been adopted as an artistic alternative to regular forms of sushi. So, what is Chirashizushi? Where did it come from? Read ahead to find out.

What is Chirashi Sushi exactly?

Chirashi is a truly classic dish consisting of sashimi pieces over a bed of vinegar rice or sushi rice. The name for Chirashi comes directly from the Japanese word Chirasu, which directly translates to “to scatter” giving the dish its name as the “scattered sushi”. When you see a picture of the dish you understand the name better. The bowl of rice and raw fish or sashimi pieces are often garnished with nori or oshi, shredded eggs and vegetables.

There are two different types of Chirashizushi, with one main difference in ingredient and preparation:

  • Edomae Chirashi: The original version of Chirashizushi, was a variation of Edomae sushi, which originated in Tokyo (then called Edo). Thanks to the easy access to fresh fish and seafood in Edo, this version of Chirashi was made using raw toppings. This is the type you will find in your nicer sushi restaurants. Made with the better pieces of sashimi.
    • Common ingredients: Rice, and raw sea products like salmon roe, octopus, scallops, and tuna. Might be garnished with Sakura denbu or tskudani and nori or shiso.
  • Gomoku Chirashi: people further inland in Japan weren’t able to get and/or conserve fresh sea products like the citizens of Tokyo. People had to come up with creative solutions for the lack of fresh fish and seafood. Lack of refrigeration made it impossible to get and store fresh products. This resulted in Gomoku Chirashi being made with cooked ingredients that are finely chopped and mixed into the sushi rice. “Gomoku” commonly refers to the five ingredients in Gomoku Sushi that are mixed into the rice.
    • Common Ingredients: boiled shiitake mushrooms, and fried chicken, green beans and lotus root. Might be garnished with Sakura denbu or tskudani and nori or shiso.
  • Bara Chirashi: the name for Gomoku Sushi in Okayama Region and few other places in Japan.

History of Chirashizushi

A look at the past leads us to the Edo period (1600-1800s) of Japan. The first appearance of Bara Chirashi was used by the commoners for special occasions. In an attempt to fight back against the restrictions placed by the government people created this dish to add extra meat and vegetables to a meal by finely chopping the ingredients and mixing it with the rice. There are recollections of the meat and veggies being placed in bottom of the bowl, under the rice and then being flipped over when it was time to eat.

The dishes evolution came along with the evolution of sushi. When sushi makers prepared their sashimi, they had nothing to do with the remaining pieces, so, Chirashi was born. The unused pieces of sashimi that were left behind were used in this delicious new dish, which until then was prepared with cooked fish.

Chirashizushi can be found across Japan in both its format and is a cherished home dish due to its ease of preparation. You do not need some strong hand rolling or shaping skills, let the bowl become your canvas, start with the rice and stack your ingredients and enjoy.