Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Manly Diary - Adventures in Onigiri - by Liam A. Cohen!

photo by ana traina ~ 2011

 One day, I was working on a little project of mine, my CNC 3D printer if you must ask, and the most mysterious thing happened to me.  I noticed that I had run out of both nyloc nuts and 3mm by 30mm bolts, what a catastrophe!  I went into the town to see if my local hardware store had any nuts and bolts of the correct size, alas, they had none.  Ah, and there lies the rub! What is one to do on a hot and rainy summer's day? Then, suddenly I was struck by a stroke of brilliance!  I decided that I would cook up a scrumptious, Japanese style dinner.  

I looked on the inter-webs and found two dishes that I had particularly enjoyed when I was in the motherland.  The first being, onigiri, a Japanese bento-box food that consists of a rice-ball wrapped in nori, or toasted seaweed, with a filling of any kind on the inside.  The second was called Dango, a sweet rice dumpling with nothing inside of it, but topped with a delicious salty-sweet, caramelized sauce.


Onigiri Ingredients:

Sushi or Sticky Rice - any amount
Toasted Nori (seaweed)

Onigiri Filling Ingredients:

Salmon (canned or un-canned)
Wasabi Powder
Soy Sauce

There are no particular measurements because the onigiri can differ in size, and the filling can be made to anyone's particular liking.  After you have cooked the rice and made the filling, you must wet your hands thoroughly in salt water.  Then take a handful of rice and start squishing it into a ball, then make a "v" shape with your hand and start to turn the rice ball into a triangle.  After doing that for a while, when the rice is nice and firm, poke a hole in the rice ball and insert your filling.  Then repeat the last step to recreate the shape of the onigiri.  The final step is simply to wrap the onigiri with nori in anyway you desire.  Also, as an added note, a triangle shape is not necessary, any shape you want is just fine to make.  

photo by ana traina ~ 2011


Dango Ingredients (dumplings):

Rice flower (Japanese rice flower is the best, but any other will do the job)
Bamboo Skewers

Dango Ingredients (sauce):

Soy Sauce - 28mL
Rice Vinegar - 1/2 Tbs.
Sugar - 55mL
Water - 105mL
Mirin (Rice Wine)(Optional) - 1 Tbs.

For the dumpling part of Dango, there are no measurements because every rice flour one buys is different, and to get the correct consistency, one has to experiment with different amounts.  The correct consistency is rough, easy to make the rice dough into a ball.  After mixing the rice flour and the water, and getting the correct consistency, it is time to start rolling the dough into little balls.  The balls do not have to be of perfect shape, just relatively a sphere.  Remember to wet your hands before you make the balls, otherwise they will stick to your hands and you will not get the right shape.  Next, we must boil some water on medium heat.  After the water is boiling, put the rice balls into the boiling water.  Wait until they rise to the top; when they rise to the top, make sure to immediately submerse them in cold water.  After that, they can be put on the bamboo skewers, usually five to a skewer is how it is done.

The sauce is really easy, all you have to do is mix all the ingredients in a sauce pan and put the pan on high heat, and mix.  After all of the ingredients are mixed together you should see like a coffee colored liquid.  After that, wait until the liquid caramelizes, or turns a light, translucent brown.  Gradually mixing the liquid, when the whole liquid has caramelized, the stove can be turned off, and the liquid should be left to cool for a few minutes.  The longer the liquid cools, the more viscous it will get.  Finally, when the sauce cools, it can be poured and draped all over the dumplings, and they are ready to serve!!!

After a few hours in the kitchen, I finally finished. I had created 11 onigiri, 3 of which had been eaten in the process, so 8 were left.  I had also created 5 sticks of Dango.  Both of them were very delicious, and very filling.  It was a good replacement for making my CNC printer, and was a worthy endeavor to increase my skillet of life! 
photo by ana traina ~ 2011 ~

Thank you very much for listening and happy dumplings to all!