Chirashi sushi (vegetarian version)
This festive dish is simple to prepare, and can be as plain or fancy as you wish. It is also great to serve at parties, and vegetarian versions are just as delicious as non-vegetarian ones. The following recipe is for basic chirashi-zushi.
Soak the shiitake mushrooms for an hour or more. Drain, reserving the liquid (but discard the last bit of liquid at the bottom, as it can contain debris, or little bits of mushroom.) Cut into 1/4” strips.
Simmer the shiitake strips in the reserved liquid, adding the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the strips are nicely flavored. The seasoning is purposely strong because it is eaten with rice.
Cut the carrot lengthwise into thin sheets. Cut the sheets into ¼” by ½” pieces. Simmer for 10 minutes in water with sake and salt. The carrots should be cooked al dente.
Beat egg with a pinch of salt & sugar. Coat a hot frying pan with vegetable oil, and pour ½ the mixture, swirling the egg so that it makes a thin film at the bottom of the pan, creating a very thin omelete. Turn the heat down, cover the pan, and turn the heat off; it should be soft, and just set. It is ok if it is little bits of brown on the bottom side, but not too much, because the flavor of the omelete should be subtle, not strong.
Flip the pan over a cutting board, and let the omelete cool. Cut the omelete in half, and fold it over several times. Cut into thin strips; the thinner, the better.
Parboil the snow peas in boiling water until bright green and still crisp. Pour the water containing the snow peas into a colander. Immediately pour cold water over the peas to stop the cooking process. Alternately, scoop out the peas and plunge them into a bath of ice water. Drain, and cut on a diagonal into ¼” strips.
Ladle the sushi rice into a large mixing bowl. Mix the sesame seeds in evenly. Transfer to a large shallow serving bowl or a deep-sided sushi platter, laying the rice in an even layer, with a flat top. Do not press the sushi down- it should be light and easy to serve. Scatter the shiitake, carrot pieces and snow pea strips evenly over the sushi. Scatter the benishoga as well, (optional). Then, scatter the egg strands evenly over the top.
For non-vegetarian versions, you can add chopped crab or unshelled cooked shrimp (if small, leave them whole – dice or slice in ½ lengthwise if large), as well as any variety of sashimi as well. Individual chirashi sushi portions can also be assembled, with one slice of each kind of sashimi or shellfish placed on top.
Chirashi sushi is normally eaten plain, without soy sauce, but if you are serving it with served with sashimi, you can add it to taste.