Shell-shaped sushi (Hamaguri-zushi) for Girls' Festival
From the archives, originally posted March 2, 2007. These delicately colored sushi are a great way to use usuyaki tamago. I know I’ve been re-posting things from the archives a lot lately, but I hope you’ll forgive me - I’m moving tomorrow! In any case, I hope you’ll give these delicate sushi a try, especially if you have daughters or granddaughters.
The 3rd of March is Momo no sekku or Peach Day in Japan. Peach blossoms usually start blooming around this time, signifying the coming of spring. It’s also the day for hina matsuri, the Doll Festival or Girls’ Festival. Households with daughters display hina ningyou-, traditional dolls that represent a princess’s wedding procession. This is because the ultimate happiness expected for a girl was for her to make a fruitful and comfortable marriage. Nowadays girls may be expected to do other things besides become happy wives, but on this day at least traditions still hold strong.
In Japan there is a long standing stereotype that girls and women like very sweet things, while manly men like less sweet and bitter things. So, for Hina Matsuri the guests are served sweet things like amazake (a very thick non-alcoholic hot drink made from the lees of sake, rather like eggnog in color and cloying sweetness), hishimochi (tri-colored mochi cake) and okoshi (colored sweetened puffed rice). Although there were three girls in our house, none of us liked amazake at all. However, my mother often made some kind of sushi for Hina Matsuri, which we really loved.
Here are two kinds of very pretty, girlie sushi in feminine pink, yellow and white with a touch of green. These colors fit the theme of Hina Matsuri perfectly: the traditional hishimochi is colored white, pink (or light red) and green.
The first is hamaguri-zushi or clam sushi, pictured here. It’s supposed to look like a clam, but to me it looks just as much like a little yellow flower. (Hamaguri are in season in March in Japan.) It can be filled with any kind of sushi rice, but here I have made a slightly pink-tinged sushi rice with lemony smoked salmon, mitsuba or flat-leaf parsley and white sesame seeds, wrapped in a usuyaki tamago or thin omelette. It’s related to chakin-zushi, where the omelette is wrapped in a bag shape and tied, but slightly less fiddly since all you have to do is fold it into quarters.
Besides making a very pretty spring party dish (for an appetizer maybe, or as part of a buffet), these work very well as bento items too since the sushi rice has good keeping qualities, and the omelette keeps the rice from drying out. Plus you can just grab them with your hands to eat.
The second sushi is smoked salmon temari zushi - the recipe is here.
Hamaguri-zushi (clam sushi) or yellow flower sushi
- 4 cups of cooked plain white rice cooked with dashi stock
- 1/4 cup plum vinegar or raspberry vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- About 60g/2 oz smoked salmon, finely chopped, or 2 to 3 tablespoons of salmon furikake
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbs. toasted white sesame seeds
- 2 Tbs. chopped mitsuba or flatleaf parsley leaves
The wrapping: * usuyaki tamago using 6 eggs
- Salmon roe (aka salmon caviar) or ikura (which are salmon eggs marinated in a soy sauce mix)
- Small non-stick frying pan
- Rice cooker (will make your life a lot easier)
- A heat-resistant brush for brushing the oil onto the pan, or a wad of paper towel
- Spatula to turn the omelette
- Rice paddle or spatula for mixing the rice
Make the usuyaki tamago. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork or chopsticks (not a whisk or it will become too bubbly) with the sugar, salt and the cornstarch/water.
Heat the small frying pan over a medium-low heat. Brush lightly with oil. Put about 1/8th cup or 3 tablespoons of the egg mixture in the pan, swirl carefully so it coats the bottom of the pan but doesn’t slosh up the sides. Hint: use the same scoop or spoon to measure equal amounts of the egg - I use a 1/4 cup measure, half filled.
Cook just until the top is barely set, then carefully pick up the omelette with the spatula and flip over. Cook for about 10 seconds just until it’s set, then flip out of the pan. The omelettes should be yellow, and not browned.
Repeat for the rest of the egg. You should end up with about 12 to 14 omelettes.
The omelettes can be made the day before and kept covered with plastic in the fridge.
Make the sushi rice the day you plan to serve it. Cook the rice following the basic instructions. Turn the hot rice out into a bowl and break up lightly with the spatula. The sushi vinegar in this case is made with a red colored vinegar, either plum or raspberry (don’t worry, this won’t make the rice taste weird). Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan and heat until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over the rice, and mix/fluff the rice until it’s all a uniform pale pink. Let cool to room temperature.
In the meantime, sprinkle the chopped up smoked salmon with the lemon juice, and let sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
Fold the sesame seeds, salmon, and mitsuba or parsley into the rice, trying not to smoosh the rice grains too much. Here is how the rice looks. You can just make this into small rice balls and serve too.
Note that you do not need dipping soy sauce for this, since the sushi itself is already flavored quite well.