Happy New Year 2015!
Chakin sushi is a dish that is served at auspicious occasions such as festivals and celebrations in Japan. It is made with seasoned sushi rice, wrapped in a thin omelet and colorfully garnished. They look like little pouches and it’s always delightful anticipating what is inside. Full of spring/auspicious colors, as well as seasonal ingredients, its wrapping is associated with wrapping a good fortune in Japan. Luck is bound to shine on you too. And, they are delicious.
Chakin is a piece of fabric used in tea ceremonies to wipe off the tea bowl. The thin egg omelets resemble chakin fabric, so the sushi wrap is called chakin sushi. There are two other wrappings called fukusa maki and hōshō maki. Fukusa is also a fabric used in the tea ceremony. It can be used to wrap a gift-money in an envelop for celebrations. Japanese culture places much importance on gift wrapping, especially for a notable/important person. Therefore, the wrapped gift itself seems valuable. Beautiful wrapping shows respect and care for the recipient. Also, wrapping is a type of lucky charm. As in, good fortune is wrapped. Hōshō maki is a lucky shape. In Japan, important letters and stories were written on papers and rolled to preserve them. Rolling something also brings thoughts of rolled fortunes. Foods that are tied, often appear in Japanese celebrations. The wedding gift-money is put in an elaborately designed/knotted string-artwork on paper envelopes (photo on the right is knot-design of an auspicious crane, a gift envelope for wedding). People think tying is lucky because two things come together. Wrapping, rolling and tying creates beautiful presentation and happiness. That’s a master secret in Japanese cuisine.
Chakin Sushi 茶巾寿司
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com), inspired by Chef T. Saito
For omelet sheets
• 5 eggs – if preferred, by adding extra yolk(s), omelet sheets have richer yellow hue
• ½ tsp sugar
• shake of salt
• 2 tsp potato starch
• 2 tsp water
• vegetable oil
For sushi rice
• 1 cup short-grain rice
• 1 1/4 cup water (or as specified on the package)
• 2.5 sq cm/1″ sq piece of dried kombu (optional)
• 3½ Tbsp rice vinegar
• 2½ Tbsp granulated sugar
• 1 tsp salt
For sushi rice fillings
• 40 g/ ½ medium carrot
• 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
• other options – small pieces of green beans, shiitake mushrooms (recipe below), shrimps, etc.
• 4 small shrimps
• colorful vegetable for accent, i.e. a few pieces of green beans, rapini florets, formed carrots, etc.
• for tying the wraps, i.e. 25 cm/ 10″ mitsuba stems (I used), parsley stems, thinly cut celery strips, (narrowly cut seaweed may be used for fukusa maki & hosho maki)
• salt for boiling
If using dried shiitake mushrooms
• 2+ dried shiitake mushrooms
• 100+ ml water (to soak dried shiitake)
• 150 ml water
• 1 Tbsp soy-sauce
• 1 Tbsp sugar
• 1 Tbsp mirin (or, Mizkan honteri non-alcoholic mirin)
• temizu – a few drops of rice vinegar in ½ cup water, for moistening hands when handling the rice
To make the omelet sheets
◊ With hashi or fork, use cutting motion to beat the eggs well. Don’t allow them to foam up. Beat about 100 times (in other words, many times)! To get an even color throughout the omelet, really beat the eggs thoroughly until egg whites become invisible. Season the beaten eggs with sugar, salt, the potato starch diluted in water (to thicken the mixture and to keep the eggs from breaking) and beat again. To further smooth the egg mixture, pour it through a strainer. This extra step is important to make extra smooth omelet.
◊ To make the omelets, a typically Japanese square or bit rectangular fry pan is used, but regular round (flat part about 22 cm/8″ dia.) frying pan may be used. Add thin coat of oil to the pan to evenly cook the omelet. Turn the heat to between medium and medium-low for cooking evenly. (If the heat is higher, the air gets trapped and omelet does not cook with smooth surface). Note: To check the readiness of the pan, draw lines with hashi that beat the eggs and if it coagulates quickly without sizzling, it is ready.
◊ Add one ladle (about 3½ Tbsp) of egg mixture. To evenly cook the omelet from edge to the center, swirl the fry pan as needed. After about a minute, when the surface has dried, flip it and after a few seconds, put it on a paper-towel or parchment paper. Repeat this and make 5 sheets of omelet (2 ~ 3 mm thick). Each omelet should be layered between parchment papers to absorb excess oil.
To make seasoned sushi rice
◊ Rinse the short grain rice and place it in the rice-cooker with water and konbu and cook.
To make the vinegar mixture
◊ Mix rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and heat over medium-heat. When sugar dissolves, and all seasonings are mixed together, transfer to a bowl and let cool.
To make rice filling
◊ Cut carrot into 5mm thick slices, then into strips, and then into cubes. Blanch in salted water for about 90 seconds (it should remain a bit crunchy), shock in ice water and drain well.
◊ In Japan, hangiri (a special wooden bowl used to make sushi rice) are for preparing sushi rice. When rice is done, remove the konbu. spread the rice in a large, shallow (pasta) bowl, sprinkle the sushi-vinegar mix on the rice, and using a spatula, mix, using cutting motion, side-to side. (Don’t mix too vigorously or the rice will become sticky.) Rice needs to be fanned as it is being mixed to create sheen and prevent the rice from absorbing too much vinegar and becoming too tart. Each grain of rice should be dressed evenly with sushi-vinegar. Under ideal conditions, the rice will not clump together but grains will stay separate. When the rice has slightly cooled, add the carrot cubes and sesame seeds and mix together. The seasoned sushi-rice is now ready. Cover until ready to use.
To make the garnish
◊ Peel the shrimp and cook for a minute in salted water. Then shock in ice water and drain well on a paper towel.
◊ If using dried shiitake:
Previous day or half a day earlier, reconstitute shiitake mushrooms by soaking in water for 4+ hours. In a small saucepan, place the shiitake, add strained soaking water and water (total of 250 ml – use same amount for up to pieces) and bring to a boil. Skim scums. Add soy-sauce, sugar, mirin, and again bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 10 ~ 15 minutes, until the water is almost gone. Put them in small bowl and cool. Cut off the stems and quarter the mushrooms.
◊ Blanch vegetables (in this case, carrots and green beans) in salted water for about a minute. When their colors turn bright, shock in ice water and drain.
◊ Blanch stems of mitsuba or parsley (or thinly cut celery strips).
To wrap the sushi:
◊ Neatly cut off the edges of the omelet with tip of a knife.
◊ Prepare a small bowl of water with a few drops of vinegar. Moisten your hands to form the rice and keep it from sticking to your hand. Scoop enough rice to make a ball the size of a small egg. Place it in the center of one of the omelet sheets.
Chakin sushi – First, pick up the edges of the omelet and gather to wrap the rice-ball to form a pouch. Drawing together evenly is the key to creating a nice presentation. A second set of hands may be needed here to tie one cooked stem around the gathered omelet and knotted twice (same length of stem on each side of the knot). For garnishing, equally balance the shrimp, shiitake mushroom and another colorful vegetable.
Fukuso maki – First, place the rice-ball in the center of an square (or cut square) omelet sheet. Flatten the rice a little. Wrap the rice like a square mailing-envelope. Each corner must overlap the other corner. Tie with a cooked stem, knotted twice. Squeeze in a piece each of shrimp, shiitake, and another colorful vegetable.
Hōshō maki – A square (or cut square) omelet sheet is cut into 2 ~ 3 strips. Rice ball is placed at one end of the strip, a vegetable is placed on the top of the rice with its half sticking out, rolled and tied.
Or, be creative with desired wrapping!
~ どうぞめしあがれ • Douzo Meshiagare ~
So, what’s cooking in your kitchen?