Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rice balls for travel - Meet Japan through your food

Japan is one of the most famous gastronomic destinations in the world and is also increasingly fashionable in the West since a few years ago here. We have made an express guide to Japanese food. The idea is that you can print it if you are traveling to Japan or simply plan to consult quickly. I have put enough of the dishes that I remember trying so far and I hope to expand it little by little. Nor is it wrong to help dismantle the widespread myth that the Japanese eat only raw fish and rice.

Let's start with the culinary Japanese icon par excellence. The sushi is a rice ball with some accompaniment on top. The rice must have been previously mixed with rice vinegar (komezu), sugar and salt as basic elements, sometimes leading to other condiments. The accompaniment that is put on top is usually raw fish or seafood, but cooked marinated fish, octopus, squid, egg or vegetables are also used. Before eating it gets wet in soy sauce in which a bit of wasabi has been mixed.

The typical sushi described above is called nigiri. But there are other types of sushi such as maki (cylindrical in shape, with the filling in the center and surrounded by a sheet of dried seaweed). There is the temaki (with the rice and the filling stuffed in a sheet of algae forming a cone). Special mention for the inari because it is something different. It looks like a dumpling because the sushi rice goes inside a tofu bag. It does not carry fish, seafood or any other type of typical sushi ingredient.

As the famous BMW ad said, driving is not the same as driving, and the same thing happens with sushi. It does not even look like the one they serve in specialized shops or bars of fishing villages that you buy in trays at the supermarket. Although I like them (both) a lot. My favorite is marinated mackerel followed closely by the sea urchin.

The onigiri (also called omusubi) is one of the best-known Japanese dishes. It consists of a rice ball filled with other ingredients, which is usually shaped triangular by hand. In fact, both names imply the action that is carried out with both hands for its preparation.

The onigiris are easy to make (only a little-cooked rice is needed and shape it with the hand). For generations, it has been a typical food of any field trip or picnic. In fact, in Japan, it is almost an essential element to taste, for example, under the cherry blossoms, in sports meetings, or to go to the mountains.

In addition to making them yourself, they can also be purchased easily and for very little money in the konbini. Here it is common to find a wide selection of flavors for a price between 80 and 125 円 (depending on the ingredient), or even less. These onigiris are packaged (with an easy-open system) individually and can solve an improvised or fast meal.

If we go back in the history of this dish, the rice balls are already mentioned in the Genji Monogatari, a novel written 1000 years ago by Murasaki Shikibu. In one of the scenes, the hand-molded rice balls (called tonjiki in the novel) are stacked on a mound and offered to the gods during a ceremony at the imperial court. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the soldiers who fought in the civil wars carried onigiri wrapped in long palm leaves. Since they are rich in proteins thanks to the bean paste (miso) that they had inside and that they later cooked using their own helmet (jingasa) as a container.

As I said, there are many different types of onigiri because there are many foods that combine perfectly with rice and can be used as "stuffing". To get even more variety you can mix small pieces of food with the rice before cooking. The ingredients combine well together, getting a light meal that is nutritionally balanced and colorful.

Currently, we almost always see the onigiri wrapped in nori seaweed, but for years this was very expensive and therefore very unusual. Another modern innovation is the use of molds of wood or plastic to give Kawai forms to rice balls, or putting on plastic gloves so that the rice does not stick or simply for hygiene, but even so there are understandings that affirm that the tastier onigiris are the handmade facts of the traditional way, perhaps because the affection put in their elaboration gives them a special touch.

Mochi are sweet rice cakes with a dense texture, almost like chewing gum or jelly beans. They are very popular during the new year and, despite government warnings, it seems that every year old people are choked to death by not being able to chew them well.

Donburi literally means "bowl" and is simply a bowl of rice with something on top. To accompany the food I recommend the Japanese beer.


Kala said...

Terrific photos and these look like a really tasty treat!

Meenal Mehta said...

Yummy! thanks for stopping by on my blog . You have a very nice space here , hope to be in touch regularly :)

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

I love these crispy rice balls - so crispy and light! I like cardamoms and it was nice to see it in the ingredients.

kalaiselvisblog said...

lovely puffed rice balls buddy... we used 2 do with jaggery...

Anonymous said...

They look fantastic, I feel I can reach out and take one straight off the screen!

Jeevan said...

I like having this. The post is inviting kalyan.

Valarmathi Sanjeev said...

love this...looks wonderful and yummy.

Sanctified Spaces said...

Not heard of this flavor in a puffed rice recipe.Kewl.

Firas said...

Looks quite yummy :)


Rincón de Marus said...

I love these crispy rice balls with cardamoms and the photos are wonderful.
Good day

Alcina said...

Aren't these Moa's ?

nice description..


Felicity Grace Terry said...

Sounds and looks yummy and quite healthy I would have thought.

Rajee Mani said...

These are some yummy puffed rice balls. Love the addition of honey.

Amelia said...

Hi Kaylan, how are you my dear? Love your puffed rice, look very tempting and delicious. The combination look great with coconut.

Have a lovely day ahead,regards.

Kalyan Panja
Kalyan Panja is a photographer and a travel writer sharing stories and experiences through photographs and words