Celebrate Hinamatsuri with Oshi Chirashi Cake
Hinamatsuri (ひな祭り), or Girl's Day, is celebrated every year on March 3 in Japan. Even though we lived far away in still-winter-even-though-it's-March Boston, my sister and I were fortunate enough that our mother cherished Japanese traditions and celebrated it in our home. All of our hinamatsuri dolls which you typically put on display for the holiday were in storage in Japan, so we made sure to wear kimonos and eat chirashizushi (ちらし寿司 - sushi with ingredients scattered on top or mixed in). As we grew older, we stopped wearing kimonos but we continued our chirashizushi tradition and created different variations each year with ingredients that were easy to find in Boston. Ultimately we came up with this chirashi cake: festive for the occasion and easy to prepare even if Girl's Day fell on a weekday.
First, you'll need some sushi rice which you can find detailed instructions for here. If you already have sushi vinegar handy, cook 1.5 cups dry Japanese rice and mix in 3.5 tbsp of sushi vinegar and let it rest until room temperature. Prepare all of your other ingredients while the rice is cooking or resting.
The toughest part for me is the egg. Crack two eggs in a bowl, season with a little sugar and salt, and whisk until smooth. Heat your pan really well over medium high heat and once the pan is really hot but not smoking, lower the heat to low and coat the pan with oil (you can brush or use a paper towel soaked in some oil). Pour enough egg into the pan to thinly coat and wait 15-20 seconds until the egg is starting to set. Flip over and cook the other side for 2 seconds and reserve. Repeat until all the egg is cooked off. I usually do this in 3 batches but it really depends on the size of your pan. It is much easier to flip the egg in a small pan. As you can see from the above photo, I am no expert at this, but it's okay because we cut it up anyways! Slice the egg thinly into 1 inch strips.
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and steam or boil until cooked through and reserve.
Slice up cucumbers and sprinkle in some salt (Kirby cucumbers are best here because they're firmer). Wait 5-10 minutes and pat the cucumbers dry with a paper towel.
Cut half an avocado into thin strips and mix with some sushi vinegar to keep from oxidizing.
Now comes the fun part. It's a little arts and crafty so I get a bit too excited. Place plastic wrap in a medium sized container (mine is 8x6 inches) and smooth out until it evenly coats the interior. Then evenly sprinkle all of the egg strips.
Then take a third of the sushi rice and layer on top of the egg. Take a smaller container and cover the exterior with plastic wrap (easiest if you have nesting containers but if you don't, no biggie). Press down on the layer of rice with the smaller container.
Once that's done, layer in the cukes and then the smoked salmon. Add another layer of sushi rice and push down again. Add a layer of avocado and smoked salmon and top off with the last third of sushi rice and again, press down.
Lastly, cover the top with an upside down plate and flip! Garnish with shrimp and cucumber. It's customary to pair sushi with clam soup on Girl's Day which you can find the recipe for on last week's post.