Diner's dictionary Defining unfamiliar menu terms

Furikake on the okonomi waffle from Short Grain food truck.

Furikake (who-ree-kah-keh)

Just as Americans reflexively reach for the salt shaker when presented with a bowlful of mashed potatoes, Japanese eaters rely on furikake to season their rice.

Furikake, a sweet and savory spice blend, typically includes salt. But that's just one element of the maritime mix, which usually incorporates dried fish flakes, chopped seaweed, sesame seeds and sugar. It sometimes includes wasabi, powdered soy sauce, powdered miso and egg. While developed for rice, it's equally good on stir fries and grilled fish. (Furikake literally means “to sprinkle.”)

Fans of furikake describe it as “magic” dust, responsible for “flavor explosions.” Such phrases are pretty good evidence of the final ingredient in most varieties of furikake: Manufacturers use monosodium glutamate (MSG) to bump up the seasoning's umami quotient. While scientists have repeatedly failed to find any link between the additive and the reported headaches, sweating, nausea collectively referred to as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” it's possible to buy MSG-free furikake.

Short Grain Food Truck (Okonomi waffle, $8)

H&L Asian Market offers the best selection of furikake mixes, but most supermarkets will stock at least one example on their shelves devoted to Asian products.

While it doesn't go by the name furikake, dried and fermented fish flakes are in the seasoning arsenal at Husk. For more traditional versions, check the tabletops at Menkoi Ramen House or order the okonomiyaki at Xiao Bao Biscuit.