I walk among the little rocks and across the summer rug of puffy, orange-colored popuid grass. Oscar walks beside me sniffing, longing for what I’m doing. I hold the fronds of leafy sea lettuce up to light, noting its freshness: not sticky, bright green, and light to the touch. I bite off a small piece: awesome! Last night, the tide was slightly lower than usual due to the oscillation of the moon. High tides, combined with local currents, threw sea lettuce from clinging to rocks.
I find a big ringworm the size of a plate and put it in my basket. I shoot and another and another. Oscar sniffs a basket of sea lettuce, speculating that it might be edible. Brilliant green sea lettuce is Chlorophyta (a green seaweed) from Olfa The family grows in sheltered areas and inlets around southeastern Alaska. Remember to harvest in locations away from pollutants such as ports, old landfills or sewage outfalls.
Today, I’m harvesting sea lettuce, some small bladderwrack herbs, plus a bit of goose tongue for my latest gastronomic experience at Fish Camp. I make Furikake. Pronounced FOO-ree-kaw-kay, it means “spray.” Furikake is a Japanese seasoning that is sprinkled on sushi, noodles, rice, vegetables, fish, and meat dishes. I plan to make a large bowl of fur to divide and share. I’m excited about this because it’s that time of year when all the beach greens are ripe, the flowers are blooming on the bushes, and there are fir tips in my freezer.
I picked up a large frond and placed it on top of the damp seaweed pile. I say “gonalshish, sea lettuce.” With my basket full, I made my way back along the shore to my seawall and climbed a set of stone stairs to my cabin.
What we know as modern Furikake was invented in the 1920s by a pharmacist who wanted to add more calcium to the Japanese diet, using fish bone powder to season foods, and adding needed vitamins and minerals. Ultimately furikake was developed with a wide variety of flavours. There’s wasabi furikake, nori flavor, salmon flavor, and shisho (dried perilla leaf) flavor. Mine, I’ll call Southeast Alaska Furikake because I’m substituting plants I harvested locally. I’ve already dried a few ingredients: dried spruce tips, dried salmonberry leaves, dried thyme berry blossoms, and dried goose tongue. If I’ve had dried salmon chips, I’ll try that, but I have a box of traditional dried bonito chips.
I follow a basic voricak recipe I found online and tripled the ingredients. The basic recipe includes toasted sesame seeds, nori herbs, salt, and sugar. I’ve purchased some of the suggested ingredients online, like wasabi powder and bonito chips, although you can get them at a specialty food store or perhaps at your local grocery store, depending on where you live.
I bought a big jar of white seeds, but black sesame seeds were not available locally. Instead of using commercially processed nori seaweed, the kind used in sushi, I’ll use sea lettuce. Instead of using shisho leaves, I’ll use raspberry blossoms and dried salmonberry leaves. And of course, I add spruce tips.
In front of my cabin, I spread the fluffy green sea lettuce fronds on a table next to my sea wall. After a cool spring, we finally get some hot weather. Tis the season of spice! You’re supposed to be in your 70s today. Although I melt at 70 degrees, higher temperatures are good for drying seaweed when you live in a rainforest. While I wait for the sea lettuce outside to dry, I dry a small handful of pop in the oven on low heat. Using a clean coffee grinder, I grind flowers, beach greens, and seaweed. I also grind and toast sesame seeds.
After two hours in the hot sun, sea lettuce shrinks, becomes darker and more brittle. To test it, I curl it with my hand. Time to get all of my ingredients out on the table. This seasoning is new to me since I’ve only eaten frikaki in restaurants and haven’t looked for it in our local grocery store, although I’m sure it is.
In a medium sized glass bowl, pour the toasted sesame seed mixture and then add all the other ingredients. Finally, with my hands, I curl the sea lettuce into small pieces and throw handfuls into the mixture and stir it in. I scoop the spices into three small jelly packets that have been cleaned and dried. I put the lids and rings on the jars, then poke holes in the lid. The seasoning will last about six months. Use Southeast Alaskan frikkaki as you would any steak or fish seasoning. Sprinkle it over rice or pasta dishes, too. Common uses for furikake are mixed with onigiri (rice balls), and sprinkled on sushi, ramen, omelettes, and tofu. Also try sprinkling Southeast Alaskan frikkaki on potato and pasta salads. Use it to season French fries, vegetables, and soups. To try Furikake I’m making Spam musubi for dinner, although I’m excited to make salmon and halibut musubi this summer. There are many ways to sprinkle, or should I say “furrica” your food with summertime.
Dear Reader, I am sharing with you a Furikake recipe in Southeast Alaska, and your challenge is to make this seasoning with as many local ingredients as possible. I like to say to Tlingit, “When the tide goes out, the table is set.” This is how I see our beautiful beaches in Southeast Alaska – and it’s a potentially good recipe that’s always good.
Southeast Alaska Furikaki
Makes 1 small jar of seasoning.
(I tripled this recipe to make 3 packages.)
Locally Harvested Ingredients:
1 cup dried sea lettuce, broken or torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon finely ground red seaweed
1 tablespoon of crushed dried raspberry blossoms
1-2 tablespoons of dried salmonberry sprouts
4-6 dried spruce limbs, finely ground
1 tablespoon of ground goose tongue
1 tablespoon of dried kelp
1 tablespoon of dried popcorn
Half a teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Specialized components (purchased)
Half a cup of white sesame
1 tablespoon black sesame
3 tablespoons bonito flakes (fish)
1 teaspoon miso powder
Half a teaspoon of wasabi powder
1 teaspoon kelp powder
Make sure to clean the coffee grinder before use. Pour the white sesame seeds into a grinder or small food processor. If you are tripling the recipe, you will have to do it in batches, especially if you have a small mill. Don’t grind too much. Whisk only once or twice to get the flavor out of the seeds, leaving several whole seeds. Next, toast the sesame seeds, mushroom powder, and ground red seaweed (also called dulse) together for a few minutes in a small skillet. Take care not to get burned. (If you are adding black sesame seeds, there is no need to grind and roast them.)
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together all of the ingredients you collected and tossed together with the other specialty ingredients, including the toasted seeds. Using your hands, curl the sea lettuce into small pieces and season with the seasoning. Place the spices in a clean spice jar or container. Seal with a lid and make sure there are holes for shaking.
Bonus: Highbush Cranberry Dipping Sauce for musubi
1 mini 6-8 ounce jar of Highbush cranberry jelly (works with any homemade jelly)
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Brown sugar to taste (1-3 tablespoons)
Half a cup of water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Mix the jelly, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Turn the stove on low and heat it up slowly, stirring occasionally. If necessary, you may have to add a few tablespoons of water. In a bowl or other small jar, pour the water and half the sulfur and, using a fork, mix the cornstarch to make a paste. Pour the mixture into the saucepan with the jelly mixture and mix well. Heat this until it thickens. Add more soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar to your taste. If you like spice, add chili flakes. This sauce is used to flavor your musubi on top of meat or fish before coating it with nori. Just a small amount of sauce will do the trick. Some chefs apply sauces to fish or unwanted spots during cooking. Also, cranberry sauce can be used to dip the mosubi. Enjoy!
• Writer and artist Wrangel Vivian Faith Prescott wrote “Planet Alaska: Sharing Our Stories” with her daughter, Yalk, Vivien Mork. Appears twice a month in Capital City Weekly.