May 31, 2009

onigiri / musubi & pickles

spicy salmon onigiri, exterior spicy salmon onigiri, nom nom nom

Onigiri = rice ball in Japanese, and for some reason the word musubi also means the same thing. Why there are two words i have no idea. For equally obscure reasons, people in Hawaii mostly use "musubi" especially for the spammy ones. ANYWAY. I have been making rice balls like a maniac lately, I think out of longing for the warm shores of Hawaii.

I make my rice according to JustHungry's instructions, and I will say that you should follow these instructions to the letter. I tried a couple times to be lazy and just make short grain rice the same way I make jasmine rice, and it came out a grotesque sticky mushy mess. Be ye warned. If you sprinkle in a 1/2 tsp or less of salt per cup of rice, you can be lazier about salting the rice when you make the rice balls (see below).

The spicy mayo salmon filling I made up based on a similar spicy-tuna recipe in my Hawaiian recipe book, and is something along the lines of: 1 can salmon (ideally wild for best omega 3 nutrition), with condiments to your taste -- about 1 dollop of mayo, a big squirt of sriracha sauce, a dash of chile oil, and a large sprinkling of japanese red pepper powder (could probably substitute cayenne or hot paprika). You can always make it spicier, so start small.

If you have a rice ball mold, it's easiest, but you can do with any teacup or small bowl. Look around on or for instructional post. I made mine in the tops of these adorable little things, which both makes perfect onigiri and fulfills your daily requirement of Cute with a capital C. Thanks to Maki for finding the boxes! Basic idea is line bowl/cup/mold with saran wrap, dip your fingers in a bowl of water and spritz the wrap, then sprinkle a little bit of salt (skip if you salted the rice and are lazy). Put in about half the rice you want, enough to loosely cover the bottom of the vessel. Spoon in some filling -- not too much, or it won't be fully enclosed by the rice, but I do use more than commercially made onigiri do, and i spread it around the whole width of the rice ball, leaving about 1/4" border. You can press down on the filling and rice a little bit with the spoon at this point to start compressing it. Add the other half of the rice on top. Wet your fingers to keep the rice from sticking to you, and pat the rice into shape. Cover the rice with the edges of the saran wrap and compress it into a tidy shape. Sometimes the best thing to do is gather the edges and twist, to tighten up the whole works at once. In any case, you are now done.

You can leave it wrapped up and take it that way for lunch, or you can transfer it to a cellowrapped piece of nori and tape it closed and carry it that way. Whatever. If you like the nori, but can't find the fancy pre-wrapped stuff, just buy sheets of it, cut to size if necessary, and bring it along in a separate baggie, or tucked in outside the saran wrap, and wrap the rice ball in it when you are ready to eat it. It will only stay crunchy about 20 seconds after being in contact with the rice. (Sometimes nori is labeled laver, especially in white-folks markets.)

You can do them in lots of shapes: round balls, flat rounded triangles like I did, logs, etc. -- just mush the rice around inside the wrap into shape. 1 cup of sushi rice made according to justhungry method made the 3 filled balls + 1 smaller ball that I brought last night to our chip tasting party.

Other fillings: tuna salad, ume/shiso paste, pickles of any kind (pat dry), canned fish of any kind, salted fish (even lox pieces), or pretty much whatever is soft, dry and flavorful enough to go in there and not make a mess. You can also mix in dried or small stuff directly to the rice, and just make a ball out of that rather than filling plain rice -- you can mix in furikake, or peas, or finely chopped vegetables or spice mix, whatever.

Spam musubi, cut into appetizer slices

Of course I made some Spam musubi too. The recipe in that link is pretty good and quite detailed, but bear in mind that you don't need the furikake unless you like it, and that you can put the Spam on the bottom, top with rice, and then wrap in nori the way I did (and the way it is on Kaua'i). Also the teriyaki sauce is optional, it can be just fried Spam.

And I do suggest salting the rice while cooking for this application (1 tsp kosher salt per 2 cups rice). 2 cups sushi rice & 2.25 cups water, made according to the justhungry method, will be the perfect amount for 1 can of Spam. No need to saran wrap if you're gonna just eat it on the spot, but to transport, wrap in saran wrap, smooth off the corners, and eat within the day. If you put extra in the fridge, just microwave for 45 seconds to un-harden the rice. The musubi mold does make this really easy, but if you don't have one, use same principles of compress-rice-through-saranwrap as above to get the general log-shape. Or try using the Spam can, as one of the commenters suggests on that instruction post. My Spam musubi above is cut into four slices, for serving as an appetizer at a party.

For the pickles, slice cucumber and radish (daikon is good if you have it, regular radishes tint everything a pretty pink, you can do cuke alone, radish alone, or whatever... carrots are nice with radish if you feel like it, etc.) and sprinkle with kosher salt so that every piece gets a little salt. Then stuff 'em into a container, shake 'em around and let 'em sit for a while. If you're in a rush, you can just add the vinegar right away, but i think sitting for 30 mins with the salt makes them nicer. Anyway, pour rice vinegar into the container so the veg are almost covered. Let sit 30-60 mins. After that, good to eat and will keep in fridge for at least a week. To vary, you can add a tsp of sugar and/or chili pepper and/or 1 or more sliced garlic cloves to the mix.

Go forth and eat delicious Japanese lunches!

Posted by foodnerd at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2009

shave ice

Aoki's shave ice with azuki & ice cream

We both seem to have developed a preference for lychee + liliko'i + li hing mui syrup on the ice, with vanilla ice cream underneath, or mac nut ice cream if it's available, and azuki beans too if the mood strikes.

Aoki's on the North Shore of O'ahu is so far the absolute pinnacle of the shave ice arts that we have tried. Holy cow. Absolutely perfect in every way. Superfine ice, really fresh, true-tasting syrups, good quality ice cream. yum yum. Someday when I have a couple of extra hours I am sure I will slog the line at Matsumoto's next door just to try it, but there's really no point. I can waltz right up to the counter at Aoki's and be drowning in yum before any of those poor suckers get through the door at Matsumoto's.

At Aoki's we had vanilla ice cream, azuki beans, and liliko'i, lychee and li hing mui syrup. NOM NOM NOM.

Posted by foodnerd at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2009

Trader Joe's snacks continue to win: dark chocolate chile-salt dried mango

While scoring my latest tub of Trader Joe dark chocolate covered salt almonds, I ran across a similar tub of dark chocolate covered chile-spiced dried mango with salt. Far be it from me to resist such a thing.

And lo, it was good.

Sweet, chewy, chocolatey-bitter, and solid in both heat and salt. Hell yes. YUM.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:12 PM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2009

nom nom nom nom whee! Mr. Haegar here i come

Friendly Toast part II comes to Kendall Square. YUM.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2009

chicken pozole

A long time ago, I ordered some dried posole corn from Rancho Gordo, and I've been trying to find the right opportunity to score some low-rent pig parts and make the delicious soup, but it just never comes around right somehow. And it's been long enough that I've started to worry about the integrity of that corn -- it would be just wrong to let it go stale and rancid.

So this morning, when I found myself with the remains of a roast chicken in the refrigerator, and a gray, rainy, cold spring morning making me shut all the windows and think happy soup thoughts, I thought maybe I could make a chicken-based pozole instead of the traditional pork-based one.

I consulted Rick Bayless's recipes for ranchero chicken soup and pork pozole rojo, and came up with the following method.

Pick the chicken carcass, saving the meat for the soup later, and put it in the stock pot with one onion (peeled but left whole and thrown in also), some peppercorns and a teaspoon of Mexican oregano, then bring to a boil and simmer as usual for the few hours it usually takes.

Put the posole corn into a pot with about 4 quarts of water (I used my larger saucepan) and a head of garlic, cloves peeled and halved. Bring this to a boil, then reduce heat for a low simmer, partially covered. Rick says 5 hours for dried corn, so that's what we'll do. (Actually it took more like 7 or 8, but whatevs.)

Soak the guajillo chiles in hot posole water until soft, then puree... strain into corn and liquid, then put in broth, add salt, and simmer 1 hour. Put the pulled chicken in. Top with radishes, cabbage or lettuce, chopped onion, tortillas or tortilla chips, lots of lime to squeeze in, and maybe a li'l guacamole.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2009

new kittehs!

Sorry to have been AWOL for a while. We adopted 3 new kittykats and they've been keeping us busy! Two of them are fostered strays, and they're taking a lot of time -- it's been a week, and our main victories have been getting them to eat and getting them to come out from under the chair for a few seconds at a time. The other one is a ball of fire, only 1.5 years old and still mostly kitten. As far as he is concerned, the Best Game EVAR is to chase the little wire+paper toy around and around and over and around the bed, until he's panting and falls over. (I have never heard a cat pant like a dog before -- it's pretty damn funny, I have to say.)

The way all this relates to food is that little Mr. Ball-of-Fire also loves to eat. When he's not playing, he's crying in hopes we'll give him some more food. But he's a little bit, how should we say, well-upholstered already, and the shelter folks said we should put him on a diet to keep him healthy.

So we bought the light kibble, and we're giving him only the amount it says for weight loss in a cat his size -- which of course means he acts like we are starving him to death at all times. His bowl is always empty, because when food goes in, he macks it down as fast as he can. If we drink milk or eat something meaty, he's all over that like white on rice.

And I totally feel his pain, because I know just how much dieting sucks when you love to eat.

But the one good thing about it is that by being in charge of keeping our little tons-of-fun on a diet is that it keeps me in mind of my own need to show a little restraint. And that coinciding with the onset of spring and the return of vegetables may just be good for me. Let's hope so!

Posted by foodnerd at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2009

boston burger wars

We got a hot tip from a pal that someone at the Boston Globe had gone so far as to say that a new Cambridge burger place had the closest thing to In-N-Out on the east coast. Obviously we were going to check THIS sort of thing out in detail.

The place in question is Flat Patties, a spot in the Harvard Square Garage that appears to be run by the same people who run Felipe's Taqueria, which I've heard good things about but never yet tried. The folks behind the counter are friendly, and the burger is good, but in our highly unofficial head-to-head competition with Four Burgers in Central Square, they went down hard.


No contest. That Four Burgers burger is pretty damn close to In-N-Out, actually, and has tons of burger flavor. I didn't even put ketchup on, and I ketchup the hell out of burgers as a general rule. I have no idea what J. Kenji Alt was smoking that day, when he called it flat and flavorless.

In fact, that was the main gripe I had with the otherwise perfectly nice Flat Patties burger: it lacked flavor, even with Swiss and avocado and "special sauce". I ketchuped the thing, then put on relish.


Given that Four Burgers also had better fries, Coke Zero in the fountain, AND sources their meat from crunchy granola safe-meat farms, it's a no brainer for me: the superior burger can be had at Four Burgers. If you're in Harvard Square, by all means have a Flat Patties, but for the closest thing to In-N-Out, you gotta go one more stop inbound on that Red Line.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)