fbpx Sushi Bowl MMXVIII: Chirashi vs Makanai

Sushi is nothing new in Japan, but have you ever had sushi-don? Don means rice bowl, so sushi-don is simply a rice bowl topped with raw fish. Here are two sushi bowls with similar appearances, but are distinct in the way they’re eaten.


Shrimp, scallop, octopus, cucumber, roe, and a variety of fish chirashi

Chirashi is a bowl of sushi rice topped with sashimi and vegetables. The sashimi is arranged artistically and may be complemented by vegetables like cucumber or tamago, a rolled egg omelet. This version of chirashi is eaten with chopsticks, the sashimi is meant to be savored. The underlying sushi rice is made with more vinegar than the usual nigiri roll and is also eaten separately as a palate cleanser.

Don’t worry about trying to track down a chirashi restaurant, they’re on the menu of most sushi restaurants. Including some sushi go-around! The Tsukiji fish market is a great place to get chirashi, there’s a multitude of sushi restaurants. The variety in chirashi varies depending on the restaurant, but can really include just about anything. Some popular toppings are shrimp, tamago, cucumber, different types of fish, and roe.

Makanai means “food cooked for employees”

Chirashi is traditionally served on Hinamatsuri, or Girls Day, which is every year on March 3rd.


Shrimp, thinly sliced cucumber, cubed fish and tamago, and roe makanai

Makanai is a variation of chirashi, also referred to as barachirashi (ばらちらし). You can prepare a small dish of soy sauce and wasabi to pour on top. Because the sauce makes the rice separate and therefore frustratingly difficult to pick up with chopsticks, it is eaten with a spoon. If you’re seen using chopsticks by the staff they may politely urge you to use a spoon instead.

This sushi bowl has cubed sashimi and the vegetables are in bite-sized pieces. Barachirashi has regional variations that consist of only cooked toppings, like soboro, shiitake mushrooms, lotus root, or snow peas. Outside of Tokyo, the sashimi version is referred to as edomae, since Edo is the historical name for Tokyo.

Makanai means “food cooked for employees,” which is how the sushi bowl got its origins. The fish bits that couldn’t be sold are chopped up and served on rice for the busy restaurant employees. Chirashi means “scattered” although the toppings are almost always carefully arranged to be aesthetically pleasing. Similarly, chirashi used less appealing fish that couldn’t be sold as sashimi or nigiri.


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