Thursday, 10 May 2007

Inari Sushi - 稲荷ずし


Do you ever have a kitchen inferiority complex? A technique or recipe that sounds so complicated or delicate you are forever putting off facing it, 'until I'm a better cook/more experienced/have more room/buy more expensive equipment/have an expert to hold my hand'?

A lot of people are in awe of the souffle, gelatin, or making creamy sauces. For me, it's always been baking with yeast. I know, people do it all the time, but somehow I fear the yeast will sense my nervous touch and refuse to rise. I don't mind eating my mistakes, but what do you do with a lump of flour?

Recently I've discovered my Japanese food fear - sushi rice. Something about the Japanese reverence for the skills of sushi chefs, the specialised equipment recommended and the heated internet discussions about the correct amount of vinegar has convinced me that the task of cooking some rice in a rice cooker and seasoning it with vinegar, salt and sugar is beyond me. Generally I believe in learning through making mistakes, and I've happily jumped in and butchered plenty of other Japanese dishes, but we're all a little illogical sometimes.

So for now I am gently skirting the issue, making faux sushi in all its varieties, reading up on the subject and, of course, sampling a lot of restaurant sushi to get a "feel" for it. The feel is very important.

This week's confidence booster was inari sushi pouches stuffed with a takikomi gohan mixture instead of the usual sushi rice. Inari sushi, pronounced inarizushi in Japanese, is named after the Shinto god of rice and is a homey sushi variation more comfortable in a bento box than a fine restaurant.

Most often filled with plain white sushi rice, I also see a lot of rice mixed with sesame seeds, furikake, seaweed or some thinly sliced vegetables. You could use whatever you like, but the rice should be the dominant taste.

Recipe: Inari Sushi with Carrot, Enoki and Kiriboshi Daikon
Makes 12 fully stuffed pouches.

1.5 cups of brown rice
2.5 cups of water
1 piece dried konbu
3 TBSP sake
2 tsp. mirin
2 tsp. shoyu
Carrot, grated or peeled into thin slices
Enoki mushrooms, cut into short lengths
Kiriboshi daikon (dried, shredded daikon, written as 切り干し大根)
12 ready made tofu pouches

  • If you've got time, put the water and konbu in the rice cooker to soak ahead of time.
  • Add the rice, seasonings and vegetables and press start.
  • When the rice cooker says you're done, taste the rice. Adding other ingredients can confuse even the smartest rice cooker. You may need more time, more liquid or both.
  • Rinse the tofu pouches in hot water, gently squeeze them dry and fill with rice mixture (I used a spoon for this, pressing down with the back to pack the rice into the corners).
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!

(I filled my sushi up to the top because it looks pretty, but if you want yours to look more like this just fill them about two thirds of the way, close the pouch and arrange flap side down.)

I found conflicting advice about heating and rinsing the tofu pouches. Some advised boiling the sealed package to keep in the flavoring liquid, others rinsing and squeezing the tofu as you would aburaage. For the sake of science, I tried it both ways and the rinse and squeeze is a) far easier to handle, b) retains the flavor just fine, c) tastes and feels a lot more like every other inari sushi I've had in Japan. You could probably skip the rinse, but definitely squeeze well.

Inari sushi pouches generally come pre-seasoned in a sweetish stock. If you're using plain aburaage, you may want to try one of these, stock recipes.

What I love about inari sushi is the way it fits perfectly into my bento box (a bento design feature, I wonder?) and neatly into my mouth. Even when I work up my nerve for maki sushi, I'm pretty sure I'll spill it all over me.

1 comment:

K & S said...

those look great! you can buy the sushi mix (like sushi taro) to make your sushi rice, I think some of them have the veggies inside the mix, just cook the rice and mix in, then fill your pouches!