Hanare Japanese Cafe | Tanjong Pagar Road

What is “bara chirashi”?

I ask this in true sincerity, because the good ole’ trusty Google is failing me on this.

A chirashi don, or “chirashizushi” is essentially a bowl of sushi rice topped with raw fish and vegetable garnishes. Technically, there’s no set standard for what ingredients must be used in the dish. It varies on the customer, chef and season, really. What then, is “bara”?

Well, according to my research, “bara” is either a rose, or a genre of manga targeted at men. Unlike “yaoi” – which is targeted at women – the male characters are illustrated in an almost feminine fashion. “Bara” on the other hand, is decidedly masculine… Clearly, my investigative skills are taking me to a different place from the one I had intended.

“Bara” comes from “barazushi”, which overall comes from a play on the word “chirashi”, which means “scattered” in Japanese – referencing the presentation of the dish.

This might sound cliched and elitist, but I’ve known about chirashi don before Teppei had people talking about it. I was literally, introduced to it from a young age but not by choice, I might add. When I was younger, my family had this weird rule whenever we’d eat at Japanese or western restaurants…places which serve individual portions. They’d set us a budget (of say, SGD 20), and we could order virtually anything, as long as it was within that preset range. As a child, you learn about maximizing resources, sacrifice, team work and cooperation (sometimes, me and my brothers would do deals with each other so that we could eat this or that or whatever we wanted). I loved sushi and sashimi, but I knew I’d leave the restaurant hungry if I blew the money on that. So, I got creative with my budget and discovered what seemed like the best of both worlds: chirashi don.

I needn’t live with much when it comes to chirashi don. Just give me some pieces of fresh raw fish, a good bowl of sushi rice, fresh grated horse radish, soy sauce and the pickled ginger of a palate cleanser and I’m good to go. That’s how they eat it in Osaka and Tokyo, and that’s how I ate it there and here, too. However, the bara chirashi here seemed unnecessarily complicated with the various seasoning or whatever concoction they mixed the sashimi in. In addition, the rice served underneath is deliberately piping hot, which begins broiling the sliced raw sashimi below. It’d appear that all these seemingly erroneous crimes are being committed intentionally, almost as if they’re trying to localize the dish to suit local palettes who might not necessarily be used to eating sashimi. It was such a tsunami of seasoning that it completely overwhelmed the dish into a single note – I couldn’t pick out the salmon from the tuna, and that’s bad, considering how those two are so strong in character.

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