Onigirazu

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Very popular in Japan right now are onigirazu, a flattened onigiri (rice ball) sandwich. These were introduced more than 25 years ago by manga artist Tochi Ueyama in his ‘Cooking Papa’ series, which we just happened to have copies of in the guesthouse where we lived in Japan.
 
More substantial than a simple rice ball, the filling possibilities are endless, egg, tuna mayo, hamburger, tonkatsu matched with any cooked or raw vegetables.Cut open, they look lovely lined up in a box. This is one of my favourites. 
 
Salmon and Avocado Onigirazu
Ingredients
  • 4 sheets of nori
  • 4 bowls of recently cooked Japanese rice (short grain)
  • 4 tbs gomashio (ground, toasted sesame seeds mixed with a little salt)
  • 2 fillets of poached salmon, cooled (grilled works fine, too but will be drier)
  • 2 avocados, sliced long ways
  • 6 cm piece cucumber, finely julienned, 3cm long
  • 4 – 5 lettuce leaves, roughly torn
  • 4 tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp ume paste, optional
Makes 4 (8 halves)
 
Method
  • On a chopping board lay out a large square of cling film and place a nori sheet on top, turn so it is in a diamond shape
  • Place the equivalent of half a bowl of rice in the middle and shape into a rough square; flatten. You should have a small square with four triangles of nori showing
  • Sprinkle 1 tbs gomashio over the rice
  • Flake half of one salmon fillet over to cover the rice
  • Layer the avocado, then cucumber on top
  • Mix the mayo with the ume paste and spread a quarter over the cucumber, then cover with lettuce leaves
  • Cover with the remaining rice, keeping the square shape as much as possible
  • Now, fold the two opposing triangles of nori in over the rice, then the final two to make a small, square parcel
  • Bring the cling film corners over to wrap and secure
  • Wait till the rice has cooled before cutting in half with a sharp, wet knife
  • Repeat and place the onigirazu halves filling side up in a box

A little bit more…

  • You can use either brown or white rice, but it needs to be short grain. Pudding rice works well if you can’t find regular Japanese or sushi rice
  • The other fillings pictured are smoked mackerel, red pepper, and rocket with mayonnaise, and shredded egg, wakame and fermented ginger carrot
  • The difference between sushi and onigiri and onigirazu is the rice. Sushi rice is seasoned with vinegar, salt and sugar (or alternative) whereas onigiri or onigirazu uses plain rice. 
  • Cling film/saran wrap makes them easier to assemble and transport but I just use a sushi mat or clean tea towel to wrap them in

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Takenoko Gohan & Taki Komi Gohan

Fresh, local takenoko, bamboo shoots, can only be enjoyed in spring, much like asparagus in the UK. Bamboo shoots impart a sweet, subtle flavour when steamed with rice and is much loved by Japanese. Here are two recipes to cook in a rice cooker, but can easily be cooked in a pan. Vacuum packed bamboo shoots could be substituted, as I will have to use next spring…..

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Takenoko Gohan, Bamboo Shoot Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 5 cm piece of takenoko,prepared fresh bamboo shoot, cut into bite sized pieces (or use canned if not available)
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • Dashi, konbu and katsuboshi stock
  • Kinome, fresh sansho leaves, to garnish

Method

  • Wash the rice and add to the rice cooker
  • Add the takenoko
  • Add enough dashi to reach the indicator for 2 cups of rice, add the soy sauce and mirin
  • Steam as usual
  • When finish mix the rice to evenly distribute the takenoko
  • Add the kinome to garnish

Takikomi Gohan Rice Steamed with Mixed Vegetables

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This usually contains chicken, but I only use vegetables. Any seafood or vegetables of your choice could be added.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (rice measuring cup) short grain rice
  • 5 cm piece of takenoko,prepared fresh bamboo shoot, cut into bite sized pieces (or use canned if not available)
  • 1/3 slice aburage (deep fried fried tofu skin), cut into strips, place in strainer and pour hot water over it and gently squeeze to drain excess oil
  • 1/3 carrot
  • 2 tbs hijiki seaweed, reconstitued in water for 20 minutes, then rinsed and drained
  • 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes to an hour to reconstitute then sliced (reserve the soaking water as stock)
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • Dashi

Method

  • Wash the rice and add to the rice cooker
  • Add the takenoko, aburage, hijiki, shiitake and carrot
  • Add enough dashi to reach the indicator for 2 cups of rice, add the soy sauce and mirin
  • Steam as usual
  • When finish mix the rice to evenly distribute the vegetables

Savoury Rice Porridge ‘Zousui’

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Zousui translates as a hodgepodge or medley soup. It is typically prepared after a nabe, a Japanese hotpot, which is simmered throughout the meal and continuously topped up with meat or fish and vegetables and cooked like a fondue at the table with everyone helping themselves. At the end of the evening a tasty stock remains to which you mix in rice, crack an egg on top, cover and cook until the egg has set.

In our house though, it also refers to a one-pot dish we often make for breakfast (or lunch) using left over miso soup and rice. It is incredibly quick and simple, and is very warming on a chilly winter morning.

My children and I prefer the consistency of a creamy risotto, whereas my husband likes his more soupy so adjust the liquid to rice ratio as you like. If you don’t have enough soup add some water and mix in some more miso or shoyu. I like to finely slice the konbu originally used to make the dashi for the miso soup and add that in, too. Japanese often discard it but it is full of magnesium so I also eat it or make tsukudani (konbu relish) from it.

Ingredients

  • Cooked miso soup (or you could use a sachet of instant miso if you don’t have leftovers to hand)
  • Cooked rice, hot or cold, enough to serve the number of people eating
  • 1-2 Eggs (obviously use more for large quantities!)

Optional extras

  • Cubes of tofu
  • Handful of green leaves (spinach, mizuna, kale etc)
  • Any cooked vegetables, pulse or grain

Toppings

  • Chopped spring onion
  • Sesame seeds
  • Slivers of ginger

Method

  • Heat the miso soup in a pan
  • Mix in the rice, if cold heat till piping hot.
  • Crack in 1-2 eggs. You can either swirl the egg around on top as above or mix in the eggs and cook until lightly set for a creamy zousui.
  • Add the green leaves to wilt, if using.

Serve hot topped with spring onion and sesame and or ginger. I also like natto on mine! Pickles on the side is also good.

 

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