Sunday, June 28, 2009

rice balls!

Yesterday was "Pool Day" at our friends' home, a big pot-luck with swimming, cards, and of course food. Our contributions to the buffet table were a succotash, prepared by the lovely Carol, and rice-balls, which were a joint effort.

Shelly asked about the rice balls; here's the story. First is the rice. You want something medium- or short-grain. We get ours at costco in 50-pound bags. Don't use "Minute Rice®" or "Uncle Ben's®" or basmati rice or the usual "long grain" rice popular on supermarket shelves -- the kind of rice you typically get at Chinese restaurants in other words. What you need here is the kind of stuff you typically get at Japanese restaurants; it's fairly sticky. Don't buy something labeled "glutinous rice", though; that's too much of a good thing. I grew up on Hinode brand "Calrose" rice; I think if you get rice with a Japanese brand name like Shirakiku or Kohoku you'll be OK.
These particular rice-balls were made by forming "shiso gohan" (しそごはん). What you do is cook the rice as usual. About 15 minutes after the rice-cooker pops, stir it around with a rice-paddle and let it sit a while longer (covered). Then you take some of this "yukari" stuff (from the envelope you see at left). Here's the interpretation. At the top, the small black letters on a gold background, it says "三島の" (Mishima's -- a brand name) -- oh, helpfully it says "mishima" at the bottom. Next, the big white letters on purple, "ゆかり" ("yukari", sounds like "you-kah-ree") is the name of the product. I guess. I don't know how to say it in English, but my lovely Carol said it's "purple basil."

The smaller white letters on green, in the middle, are "しそごはん用" which being interpreted says, "for use (in making) 'shiso gohan'" where "shiso" is that "purple basil" stuff and "gohan" is "cooked rice" (as distinct from "o-kome", rice before it's cooked).

OK, so you take your cooked rice that's sat for a while, say 15-60 minutes after you stirred it up with the rice-paddle, and mix in this "yukari" stuff. For three US measuring cups of rice, use four Tbsp of the "yukari" and stir it in well. That's the minimum. Give it a little taste test; you might want a little more.
Now for the fun part. With clean hands (a pure heart is optional but highly recommended -- see Psalm 24) -- oh, I mean clean wet hands -- form some rice into a ball. How much is some? Ah, maybe a scant ½ cup. Use your rice-paddle to put some rice into one cupped wet hand. Then, using both hands, to make a triangular prism, about 3cm tall, with triangles being 6-8cm on the side. We're about to go camping so I'm not going to make the volume calculation to verify that ½-cup is correct. Maybe it's more or less, but that's what you're aiming at.

If you have some "nori" (dried seaweed) around, you can wrap the rice-balls in it, but not everybody likes the seaweed. It's hard to imagine, I know, but it's true. If you're going to a Japanese store anyway, ask the proprietor for "aji-tsuke nori" -- it's prepared with "mirin" (sweet Japanese rice wine) and some other stuff, probably MSG, which really adds to the taste. If you suffer from "Chinese restaurant syndrome" you might want to go easy on this stuff.

But the rice balls were a success at pool day.

For those of you with an inner dietitian (or inner dietician -- /usr/share/dict/words has this but the spell-checker hates it), I have no idea whether this works with brown rice.

For those who love those extremely salty Japanese picked plums (probably no overlap with the inner-dietitian set), feel free to tuck one (or part of one) in the center of the rice-balls. Hey, it's a free country!

Bon appetit!

Update: another ingredient

If you can't get hold of the "yukari" stuff above, the tasty stuff at right also works just fine. The big white letters on purple background says "gohan ni mazete" (mix into rice). The rest of it I can't quite read, but it looks to me like "young vegetables and plum shi-so" -- I don't know how to say "shi-so" in English but maybe it's "Japanese basil"?? Lousy translation, but that's what the dictionary says.

This was the stuff used for the December 2010 pot-luck. I cooked 3 "cups" of rice (more like 2¼ cups American uncooked), and, as above, stirred and let it sit for a while. Then I added a little over 3 tablespoons of the stuff from the envelope at right, and used wet hands (I put salt on a plate and picked up a little salt on my hands from the plate) to form triangular prisms, a little smaller.

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