Rice. Such a versatile grain with so many different varieties. Nutrient rich and naturally gluten-free, rice is one of my favourite starches to work with. So naturally I was extremely happy to be invited to participate in the USA (Brown) Rice Blogger Challenge where I received three samples of brown rice with which to create a portable (i.e. can be eaten utensil-free and without additional preparation required) recipe made with brown rice.
I was intrigued by the short-grain brown rice and my mind immediately turned to something with a Japanese flavour. A few years ago when Neil and I and some of our friends went on a cleanse (hey – don’t judge!), the only sort of starch we were really allowed was brown rice and our “exciting dining out” during one of the three weeks included brown rice sushi. Since I don’t really “do” fish, and especially raw fish, I of course ordered vegetarian sushi (I know, I know, what’s the point. Again, don’t judge!) and was immediately hooked. Now, when I eat sushi and it’s on the menu, I will always choose brown rice version. True, it doesn’t stick together as well as traditional sushi rice but I love the nutty flavour and the slightly chewier texture and it really works with Japanese flavours.
Something I have been meaning to try for a while that seemed like a perfect match for this challenge is onigiri, a traditional Japanese snack made from white rice and formed into triangular or oval shapes, often wrapped in nori (seaweed). Traditionally, they are filled with some type of salty (pickled) or sour ingredient which acts as a natural preservative. Onigiri are so popular in Japan that many convenience stores sell them whilst there are even specialized take-out onigiri shops! (Thanks Wikipedia for a quick primer!)
My friend Rachael did a wonderful blog post with step-by-step instructions for making these delightful Japanese snacks. Traditionally made with regular sushi rice, I wondered if they might work with short-grain brown rice. Since Rachael used leftover flavoured rice, I needed to flavour my rice somehow and decided to use some of the same flavours I used in my contribution to the Peko Peko Charity Cookbook. I followed the directions I was given to cook the short grain rice (not in my rice cooker!) and it turned out perfectly. You could, of course, use leftover rice like Rachael did.
For the mushrooms:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced or grated
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in about 3/4 cup hot water for 30 minutes, then drained and diced
3/4 cup cremini mushrooms, finely diced
1/4 cup scallions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons Ponzu (or soy sauce with a touch of lemon zest)
1/4 cup chicken stock
Heat the sesame oil in a small frypan, then add the ginger, garlic, mushrooms, scallions and Ponzu. Reduce the heat to medium, add the stock and continue to cook until the liquid has just about evaporated. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
For the onigiri
1 1/2 cups short-grain brown rice, cooked
mushroom mixture, drained and at room temperature
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
What you’ll need
a 1/4 cup measure
Cut a large square of plastic wrap and rest it over the measuring cup.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture into the cup, pressing it into the cup slightly.
Gather the plastic wrap up around the rice and twist it tightly closed, making sure there are no air bubbles.
Hold the rice ball in the palm of your hand, squeezing slightly to form a round shape.
Unwrap the ball, set it aside and repeat process with the rest of the rice mix.
Onigiri can be eaten plain or wrapped in nori (sheets of seaweed), with or without the following dipping sauce.
I found that they were even better (and held their shape better) the next day.
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup Ponzu
zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
Whisk all ingredients in a small jug.
For me, this dish, whilst not traditionally Japanese in its technique, worked really well as a “portable snack.” No reheating necessary, they travel well and require no utensils at all. Easy to make, easy to eat and no clean-up – what could be better?
Keep up with me this summer through my Summer 2011 Flickr set. I will be updating this with day to day pictures (read: not all food photos!) fairly regularly so head on over there if you are interested. You never know what or who you might see there, like, you know… Dorie….