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Sokyo's guide to making chirashi zushi

Sushi master Chase Kojima of Sydney’s Sokyo restaurant reveals the key steps to this freewheeling deconstructed sushi.

By Chase Kojima
  • 1 hr preparation
  • 40 mins cooking plus marinating, soaking, cooling
  • Serves 6
  • Print
Sushi is incredibly diverse and defined by a single ingredient: rice. It's believed to have originated in Japan more than a thousand years ago as a way to preserve fish - by wrapping the salted flesh in fermented rice. Today it's enjoyed in all corners of the globe. Chirashi zushi means "scattered sushi": sushi rice spread on a plate and artfully decorated with seafood, vegetables, crêpe-thin fried egg and other tasty ingredients. I love it because it always looks impressive, and there's no limit to the ingredients you can use, including cooked or raw seafood, so you have total freedom to experiment with flavour and texture. It's traditionally eaten on Hinamatsuri (Doll's Day), which is celebrated on 3 March in Japan.
I first tried this dish when I was six years old; my father, Sachio Kojima, made it at our family restaurant, Kabuto Sushi in San Francisco, for a birthday celebration. To me, it looked like a giant sushi cake and I was immediately fond of it. This is a truly social dish, and it's especially great on picnics. Thankfully, it's fairly straightforward to make if you follow some simple tips and steps.
It's important to use Japanese short-grain rice to achieve the right texture - glossy but not sticky. When washing the rice, make a circular motion with your hand and let the rice dance with your fingertips before draining it.Do this about five or six times until the water runs clear to remove the starch, then let the rice soak for 30 minutes; this ensures the rice is nice and fluffy. When cooking the rice, the basic ratio to follow is one part washed and drained rice to one part water.
The secret to good sushi rice is the vinegar. You must use rice vinegar - it's low in acidity, and it's important not to expose the vinegar to heat to ensure it retains that acidity. I blend the vinegar mixture just before the rice is completely cooked, then mix it through the cooked riced gently so it doesn't break. Once mixed, I fan it to stop the cooking process and cool the rice to room temperature.
For chirashi zushi, impeccable ingredients are a must. When selecting your fish and seafood make sure you get sashimi-grade so you know it's as fresh as can be. If you can, go to a fish market or a specialist seafood supplier. I like to use yellowfin tuna, Hiramasa kingfish, Tasmanian king salmon and short-spine sea urchin, New Zealand snapper, and Hokkaido sea scallops. While it's preferable to buy a whole fish and fillet it yourself, chirashi zushi requires many different types of seafood, so it's often easier to buy fillets instead. I wrap each fish in paper towels first to absorb some of the water that has been released in transit.
Working with fish and seafood is much easier when you use a sharp knife. It's best to have a long, thin knife, with a blade length of at least 21 centimetres to make cutting as easy and precise as possible. Speciality sushi knives are available from shops such as Chefs' Armoury.
When serving chirashi zushi, the rice should be at room temperature and the fish and seafood chilled. Working with an item at a time, begin to place ingredients over the rice. Have fun with the presentation. Each piece will be unique; don't try to make them uniform. Inevitably some ingredients will overlap. I like to have fun with the colour and design of each piece so it looks extra enticing.
To serve the dish, use a large spoon and scoop to the bottom to ensure you have a mix of rice and other ingredients. The best accompaniments are soy sauce and wasabi to dip the seafood into. Most importantly, there's no right or wrong way to eat chirashi zushi, so forget about etiquette and enjoy it however you like.


  • Crumbled nori, pickled ginger, toasted sesame seeds, diced seeded Lebanese cucumber and thinly sliced red radish, to garnish
  • Wasabi, to serve
Marinated prawns and roe
  • 120 gm king prawns (about 6)
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 65 ml sake, flamed (optional) to remove excess alcohol (see note)
  • 35 ml mirin, flamed (optional) to remove excess alcohol (see note)
  • 35 ml soy sauce
  • 1 thinly peeled strip lemon rind
  • 70 gm Tasmanian salmon roe, soaked in iced water for 1 hour to remove excess salt
Sushi rice
  • 650 gm Japanese short-grain rice (see note)
  • 90 ml rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp fine salt
Nikiri soy
  • 150 ml soy sauce
  • 15 gm piece konbu kelp (see note)
  • 15 gm katsuobushi (bonito flakes; see note)
Kinshi tamago (egg sheets)
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of caster sugar
  • Vegetable oil spray, for frying
  • 140 gm each of sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna, Hiramasa kingfish, king salmon (preferably Tasmanian)
  • 120 gm scallops (preferably from Hokkaido)
  • 80 gm each snapper (preferably New Zealand) and short-spine sea urchin (preferably Tasmanian)
  • White soy, for brushing


  • 1
    For marinated prawns and roe, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add prawns and cook until opaque (2 minutes). Drain and refresh on ice, then peel, pat dry and combine in a bowl with vinegar and 2 tbsp water, and refrigerate to marinate for at least 3 hours. Combine remaining liquids and lemon peel in a bowl. Strain roe and discard broken roe skins, and add to sake marinade. Refrigerate to marinate for at least 3 hours.
  • 2
    For sushi rice, rinse rice in cold water at least 5 times until the water becomes clear, then soak rice in another change of water for 30 minutes. Drain rice in a sieve at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cook rice in a rice cooker with equal part water (about 680ml water; less if you want firmer rice), then when cooked stand in cooker on warm to steam for 15 minutes (or cook by absorption method).
  • 3
    Meanwhile, blend rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a blender until dissolved (4-5 minutes).
  • 4
    Transfer hot rice onto a hangiri (special rice dish, or use a large plastic tray), pour sushi vinegar over and, with a big spoon or shamoji, use a cutting motion to mix vinegar through rice evenly. Don't overmix or it will become sticky
    from the rice starch.
  • 5
    Use a fan to cool the rice quickly to room temperature and store rice in a sealed container until required.
  • 6
    For nikiri soy, combine soy, konbu and 150ml water in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, add katsuobushi and simmer until infused (4-5 minutes). Set aside to cool, then strain.
  • 7
    For kinshi tamago, whisk eggs in a bowl with sugar and a touch of salt. Heat an 18cm-diameter non-stick frying pan over medium heat, spray with, pour 2 tbsp egg mixture into pan and swirl pan to create a thin sheet and cook until set (10 seconds), then flip to seal the other side. Transfer to a sheet of baking paper to cool and
    repeat with remaining egg. It will make 3-4 sheets of egg.
  • 8
    Quarter the kinshi tamago sheets, then stack on top of each other and cut into julienne. Refrigerate until required.
  • 9
    To prepare sashimi, thinly slice the fish and cut all seafood into 10gm pieces, then wrap and refrigerate until chilled (5 minutes).
  • 10
    Place tuna, salmon, and kingfish on a plate. Brush with nikiri soy and refrigerate to marinate (10 minutes). Place snapper and scallop on a separate plate and brush with white soy and refrigerate for 10 minutes to marinate.
  • 11
    Place sushi rice in a large oke (sushi rice bowl) or wide shallow bowl, leaving enough space on top for the sashimi. Scatter kinshi tamago, crumbled nori, pickled ginger and sesame seeds on top.
  • 12
    Arrange sashimi and marinated prawns on top with cucumber and radish. Garnish with sea urchin and marinated salmon roe, and serve with wasabi and extra nikiri soy on the side.


Note Sake, mirin, konbu, Japanese short-grain rice and katsuobushi, are all available from Japanese and select Asian grocers.