Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Out Of Pocket

It's been a while since I whinged about my love for all things Japanese, and since my sister's been in Japan on a trip for the past week, I thought I was due a good whine. I also thought I was due some Japanese food (it always makes me feel healthy and redeemed, and I like to think it cancels out all the butterscotch pudding).

Inari-zushi is something I'd never tried before - basically it's seasoned rice in tofu pouches, and I'd been dying to give it a go for just about forever, but I had trouble finding the, uh, tofu pouches.

You see, when I made sushi I explained about living in a village overrun solely with alcoholics and the elderly, and inari pouches weren't much of an option (you can neither drink out of them nor... whatever it is that old people do). I'd more or less given up; unless tofu pouches dropped from the heavens and into my unresisting arms, I wasn't going to go too crazy over it. I could've always bought a block of tofu and cut a hole in it, but that wouldn't have been quite the same (not to mention that even tofu is probably a bit ambitious where I come from).

And then I moved a six hour drive away, to a university town where international students are common, and people think the North is some sort of widespread swamp over the entire upper half of England. Finding inari pouches wasn't really my main problem, haha, but all of a sudden I had options I'd never imagined.

And these are they! Weird crinkly soggy little things, but ohh they were delicious. I know I'd eat more or less anything if you told me they were Japanese, but these honestly took me by surprise - not to mention that I got to model them in my bento box with a rice ball from a batch I'd made and frozen a while back (a very poorly made batch: I don't think I was firm enough with them cause whenever I've had one they've collapsed all over the place).

These look nowhere near as impressive as regular sushi, but I think I enjoyed them even more - and damn, I'm proud of myself. I've come a long way. Literally.

Japanese Cooking At Home - Hideo Dekura
Tofu (bean curd) pouches (abura-gea), available from Asian grocery stores. Prepare these by placing them in boiling water for a minute, draining and squeezing out the excess oil.
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water and finely chopped - I used regular
1/4 small carrot, peeled & finely chopped
240ml (1 cup) stock
120ml (1/2 c.) soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp caster sugar

1. Place bean curd pouches, mushrooms and carrot in a saucepan. Add stock, soy sauce, mirin and caster sugar, making sure pouches are submerged while cooking. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for about 10 mins. Remove from heat and allow to stand while liquid is cool.

2. Remove bean curds and squeeze to remove excess water. Transfer to a chopping board and cut in half to make two pouches, then set aside (mine were already in half-pieces).

3. Mix mushrooms and carrot into the sushi rice with a rice paddle. Carefully open the pouches. With wet fingers, make a ball of rice and place it in the pouch. Press sides with fingers to make a pillow shape, and tuck the ends inside. Repeat with the rest.


Y said...

How interesting! I never knew those pouches were cooked in stock and soy before being filled.

Rachel said...

This looks great!

Anonymous said...

Love making this stuff -- always makes for a nice presentation that can hold anything from rice to meat inside :)

Lori said...

How cool is that. I must see if our Asian store here has them. I would so love to try them. And I love benot boxes. Have you ever checked otu all the sites devoted solely to bento boxes. Very clever!

Anonymous said...

These were one of my favorite snacks growing up - we've always called them footballs. I think the traditional way to make them is mix the rice with pickled vegetables and stuff the pouches so they are plump and full like pillows.

Anonymous said...

your sis went to japan?!?!?!?! LUCKY FUGGING BUGGER. I assume becky?

looks lovely, I shall treat you to a a wagamama's when you get back, and I shall bore you with details of...


love you xxx

grace said...

crinkly, soggy little things, eh? sounds delightful. :) i've learned about and am now craving something new from your post here--thanks!

gaga said...

I love eating these. I always called them footballs as a kid becuase that's what they looked like to me. I haven't made them in a while, thanks for reminding me!

Gigi said...

very interesting. i just love the bento boxes. i have to get myself a set. thank you for sharing.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Those are cool allright! I ate at a japanese restaurante and everyday I love japanese food more and more, but never have eaten those... :(

Anonymous said...

"people think the North is some sort of widespread swamp over the entire upper half of England"

You've clearly spent too much time in the Sunny South, with intellectuals and cultural types. Do you forget that the North is a marshland? In Southampton would people try to steal a Nissan Micra old enough to be their father? No! They would not! They'd laugh at it and continue past, perhaps eating their sushi and lattes. But up here? No! I fear Daisy may never fully recover. That is what the North is, and don't you forget it. I was held up by a sheep for 20 minutes once on the way to work. 20! Amy had to herd it away. And then another time, by a pheasant. THIS IS THE NORTH.

Luckily I leave in a week for sunnier shores, including Japan, so I'll keep an eye out for interesting food thingies for you, my love. (See how I cleverly bring my rant about the North back to the food?) Yay!

p.s. But the North is still coolest, in spite of our elderly alcoholic population, because we AINT NO PONCEY SOUTHERNERS! BWAHAHA!

Anonymous said...

really very interesting i am going to make this tonight. look so delicious.

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Anonymous said...

just give me the rice and the tofu and i'd be happy.

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