Thursday, December 15, 2005

Making Your Own Inari

Last night, Jeff and I went to the Dekalb Farmer's Market. What with the long drive, the holiday Atlanta traffic, and the time we took to price-compare and discuss every single item that went into our cart, we didn't get back til very late. It's a tribute to how simple and easy it is to make inari that we still went ahead and made the meal even though we were dead tired. In all, it takes about an hour, about ten to fifteen minutes of which are actual work.

What are inari? Inari or inarizushi are a form of sushi (the word sushi in Japanese refers to the seasoned rice, not the raw fish as many people believe. It is possible to eat an authentic Japanese sushi meal that is 100% vegetarian, even vegan). Inari are incredibly popular in Japan--they are sold at every 7-11. Almost every Japanese fast food joint will have a tray of them sitting out. They are "picnic" food or a quick meal-on-the-go, sort of like the Japanese version of a sandwich.

A piece of inari is seasoned rice stuffed into a piece of fried, simmered tofu. Sounds strange, but the sweet tangy seasonings of the tofu and the yumminess of the rice make this the tastiest of treats. Once you try them, you'll be addicted. Take a peek at what they look like. Make a ton of them and you'll have some to take to work the next day for a quick, healthy, authentic Japanese-style lunch.

To make inari, you will need to buy the inari wrappers. They come wrapped in plastic or else--the way I most often find them here--in a can. You can find them at a Japanese, Korean or sometimes other Asian grocery stores. The Whole Foods in Atlanta often has them: they're always available at the giant one up near Marietta. You can also order them on the Internet. (Just google Inari or Inari-no-moto (ie instant inari)). At about $2-3 a can, they might seem kind of expensive, but, considering the fact that pieces of Inari usually cost about $1-3 a piece at a restaurant, it works out to be an ok deal.

1. To get started, wash two cups of rice well and then drain thoroughly. (Sushi rice works best, but any short-grain sticky rice will do). Put the rice in a pot and let it soak in two and a half cups of water for half an hour to an hour. (We skipped most of this step last night because we were in a hurry. The rice came out fine.) Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, and when it's boiling, turn the heat to low, and cover. Let it cook for 20 minutes. Do not lift the lid to check the rice!! Not even to peek!

2. During the soaking of the rice is a good time to prepare your seasoning: Mix a quarter cup of rice vinegar, a quarter cup of sugar and a half teaspoon of salt in a cup. When the timer for the rice goes off, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit--undisturbed, still covered, do not peek!--for 15 minutes.

3. While you're waiting is a great time to make your other stuffing. What else to put in the inari? Just the rice is fine, of course, and in Japan it's the most popular option. But use your creativity if you like, even try a bit of fusion! I always throw in a couple tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds. If you're not a vegan, some cooked eggs, omelette-style, help up the protein content. Slivered sauteed shitake mushrooms, steamed spinach squeezed dry, slivered pickled burdock root, umeboshi plums, some kimchee. Go wild. The two things to remember: Rice should predominate (use the other fillings just to flavor the rice) and whatever you use should be cut small, about the size of the grains of rice or barely bigger.

4. When the rice is entirely done, dump it out onto a big flat baking tray. Throw in the seasoned vinegar. With one hand, fan the hot rice with a magazine or such (I keep one of those Southern style "church fans" around just for this purpose) and with the other use a wet wooden spoon to mix the vinegar into the rice. (This is easier if you have an assistant to do the fanning!) Stir in your sesame seeds, shredded omelette, spinach or whatever else, if you're using it.

5. Stuff your inari wrappers with the rice mixture. Place them on a serving tray along with the yummy stuff served with sushi: wasabi horseradish, pickled ginger and a dish of soy sauce. Serve with hot green tea. Delicious!


Anonymous Liza said...

I am so jealous. You know how I adore your inari ;p


11:29 AM  
Blogger FilmStocker said...

We'll save you a piece next time, Liza...
Thanks for stopping by my new place on the web!

1:07 PM  
Anonymous misho said...

hi there!

I know nothing about this site - I just made myself a couple of inari-zushi as I love it but I was not sure what was the name of it - I searched google for images of inari and this was the first site that jumped out.

So I put this comment :)

8:27 AM  
Blogger Snohomish Spectator said...

My dear man! I was in search of a way to use tofu more widely in my cooking and since I love inari I stumbled on your site. I didn't get the recipe for the tofu wrappers here, but I loved variations you suggested and will be making them soon. Wonderful blog you have here.

10:55 PM  
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11:23 PM  

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