When it comes time to celebrate a happy event such as a birthday or graduation, home cooks often rely on chirashi-zushi, or scattered-style sushi, to feed the crowd. It’s a particularly popular choice for the Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival), which occurs on March 3, Girls’ Day.
The reason chirashi-zushi is such a good dish for parties is because the amount you make can easily be expanded to accommodate last-minute guests, and three of the major components — soy-simmered shiitake mushrooms, thin omelets and pickled lotus root — can be cooked days in advance. The other components can either be purchased (red and pink pickled ginger, toasted sesame seeds) or made in a matter of minutes (blanched and slivered snow peas).
Once the rice and toppings are made, final assembly takes about 30 minutes. Scatter the toppings at random for a quick and attractive presentation, or arrange them in wedges for a more dramatic look. No matter how you design your platter, organizing your menu according to the washoku guidelines of five colors (red, yellow, green, black, white), five flavors (sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter) and five ways (simmer, sear, fry, steam, raw) ensures nutritional balance.