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Furikake: My New Pantry Must-Have

I love Asian food. When I moved to Birmingham, my first weekend was spent driving around looking for a good Asian grocery to stock my pantry. (To my surprise, I managed to find five.) But I only recently discovered furikake, a Japanese rice seasoning that's become a staple for an easy dinner for really busy nights.

Furikake is a mix of salt, sugar, spices, sesame seeds, dried seaweed, and ground dried fish that's meant to flavor rice. It comes in dozens of flavors, including salmon, shrimp, kimchi, wasabi, and egg. And it turns a plain bowl of rice into a satisfying meal that takes no work and hardly any time. I like to turn on my rice cooker, and just when it finishes, crack an egg on top of the rice and cover. After two or three minutes, when the white just turns opaque, I stir the egg into the rice and top with furikake. A bowl of this makes for a filling and reasonably healthful dinner when I'm too busy or tired to cook. Furikake's also a great rub for seared tuna. I've tried it atop scrambled eggs as well, and it would probably be pretty tasty on French fries.

I've tried bonito, shrimp, and kimchi furikakes, and so far shrimp is my favorite: It adds a sweet and briny flavor that's really nice. You can find furikake at most Asian markets, especially ones that specialize in Japanese products, or online. Since the the English on many labels isn't very well translated, a little sushi vocabulary helps: nori means seaweed, sake means salmon, ebi means shrimp, and tamago means egg.