The name sounds more complicated than the dish does.
Chirashi, of course, is the “scattered” sushi that’s typical of Japanese home cooking, so that’s the easy part. We’re exceeding my limited linguistic skills again, but here’s what I can tell you about gomoku-no-moto.
Let’s get the second half out of the way first; the suffix no-moto (which literally translates to something like “essence of,” if I understand correctly) shows up attached to foods in the way American manufacturers would attach the word “Instant.”
So a broth made from bonito and kombu is dashi; a concentrate of that broth you dilute with water is dashi-no-moto. Instant ramen soup base is sold as ramen no moto. And we’ve already met Ajinomoto, the brand of monosodium glutamate that suggests it’s instant taste.
An explanation of the Japanese cultural import of gomoku appears in an anecdote from China in the December 5, 1900 edition of the British-produced, Shanghai-based North China Herald (no, I don’t know why the North China Herald was produced in the East-Southeasterly Shanghai–take it up with Queen Victoria):
There comes a good story from Japan. Mr. Sugawara, M.P., while on a political tour in Japan, was feasted by the good people of Hakodate. Speeches were made before the meal, and Mr. Sugawara was unwary enough to remark that the people of that port did not know what politics were and were much behind the times. Forthwith the chief promoter of the dinner sent an order to the chef, which countermanded the rich spread originally intended, and substituted “gomoku,” which is to a Japanese dinner as Hash to an English. Conceive the possibilities of such a practice in curbing the refractory tongues of political speakers! Imagine our House of Commons instituting a post-oratorical meal where the quality of the meats should very in accordance with the placidity or violence of the speeches given. There would many go hungry to bed. The idea should be utilized for Ratepayers’ meetings here, or for the gatherings of the Brokers’ Association.
Supposedly (I don’t have the skill to determine this for myself) moku means pieces and go means five, and many gomoku dishes are indeed basically a hash of five ingredients, although it’s not as if the gomoku police are counting to make sure your recipe conforms to their expectations. Typical ingredients for
From a box sold in Martinez, California.
1 c. (7.58 oz.) gomoku-no-moto
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. MSG?
3-4 c. sushi rice
Combine all ingredients except sushi rice in saucepan. Cook several minutes over low heat until liquid is absorbed. Cool; add to prepared sushi rice. To serve, mound rice on plate and garnish with:
- 1/2 c. frozen peas, cooked
- 1 piece shredded or thing sliced [nori], toasted, cut into 2 inch length with scissors, then slivered.
- Tamago (egg): beat 2 eggs slightly; add 1/2 t. sugar, pinch of salt. Fry thin sheet in lightly oiled pan. Cool and cut into thin strips.