Saturday, October 5, 2013

Radish Leaf Rice Spice (Furikake) Recipe (no soy)

In Japan, they have this amazing thing.  It's a mixture of random things, dried and put in packets or jars, that you sprinkle on top of rice.  It's called Furikake and it is exceptionally delicious.  It transforms a regular bowl of rice into something extra-ordinary.

You will find these highly addictive rice spices in just about every grocery and convenience store in Japan, and it comes in a huge assortment of flavours from seaweed, to shrimp, to desiccated egg, to my personal favourite, salted salmon.

I don't know how old the idea of Furikake is, but in the book Black Rain, a book describing the events of a family surviving Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War, the woman cooked up something very like this using an assortment of ingredients.  If I remember correctly, radish leaves were one of them.

Most people in the West don't consider radish leaves a food, many go so far as to say they are toxic, which I suspect they may be if you eat too much of it - but that's true of just about anything, including water.  In small quantities these greens are delicious and nutritious.  But using otherwise discarded veggies like radish and carrot tops as a garnish is an affordable way to add flavour to a dish.

The problem is that most commercial made Furikake is full of ingredients like soy and MSG, and other things that aren't necessary good for a person.  Thankfully it's quite easy to make at home, and by doing so you can change the ingredients to accommodate different allergies or other dietary needs (like low salt or veganism).

My recipe changes each time I make it, depending on what is in the cupboard and how I'm feeling.  I seldom make a vegan version, but if you like, there is a great vegan radish leaf rice spice recipe here.  It comes from my favourite blog, Just Bento, and my rice spice is heavily inspired by her Furikake no. 1 recipe.

Radish Leaf Rice Spice (Furikake) Recipe

A large bunch of radish leaves (about 2 cups after blanching)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup bonito flakes
1/4 cup dried mini sardines or shrimp
1 super-hot chili (fresh or dry) or 1/2 tsp of dry chili flakes
2 Tbs Fish sauce (or to taste)

  • Chop the chili as fine as possible and put to one side.  If you like, you can finely chop the sardines/shrimp at this time. If you cannot get very-tiny sardines, you can get the dried larger version, and chop them fine.
  • Wash the radish leaves really well.  Bring a large pot of water to the boil and blanch the leaves for about 3 minutes.  Strain leaves, rinse under cold water, and squeeze the leaves to remove as much moisture as possible.  Chop leaves fine.
  • In a large skillet or wok, dry fry the leaves on medium heat until most of the moisture is removed.  Stirring almost constantly.
  • Add the sesame seeds, bonito flakes, dry sardines/shrimp, and chili, mix well.
  • Mix in the fish sauce and continue to fry and stir until things start to dry out.  
  • At this stage you can cool completely and wrap into individual size bundles to freeze... or you can do what I did and dry them in the dehydrator or oven. 

Just added the fish sauce
I'm making a lot more than two cups worth today

to dry on a dehydrator, I covered half of each try with tinfoil
Each try was 1/3 turn from the last,  to encourage airflow
If you are going to dry them and keep them at room temp, then make certain they are completely dry, cool completely and add one of those 'do not eat' packets you sometimes get in food - silicon or some such in them, that absorbs moisture - I found mine in packets of seaweed.  Keeps in the freezer for about 6 months, or at room temp for about 2 months.

I usually make this recipe if I have a crop of radishes that didn't bulb up for one reason or another.  Maybe the weather was too wet, maybe worms got in at them, whatever.  I harvest them just as the first plants are starting to bolt.

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