Friday, August 30, 2013

Inari

Inari used to be sort of a special treat in my house growing up. It's just one of those kid-friendly foods - in both taste and packaging - and I would get so excited to see my mom making them for dinner. It's still kind of a special treat these days too.

You might not have eaten inari before, but I'm sure you've seen it. When you go to the pre-packaged sushi area of your market, you might've seen little brown pouches filled with rice. That's inari. The brown pouches are actually seasoned tofu with a slit cut into it to turn it into a pocket. They're available in most Asian markets. Some come pre-seasoned, some you have to season yourself.

Ingredients:
12 to 15 seasoned aburage (available canned or vacuum packed)
3 cups sticky rice (dry)
1½ cups water
½ cup finely diced carrot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

First, start by preparing the rice. You should rinse the rice in cold water a few times just to get rid of the excess starch. Then, add enough cold water to cover the rice and allow it to soak for at least an hour. If you think far ahead enough, you can soak it overnight. Soaking the rice will allow the grains to absorb some moisture, which will make the rice cook a bit quicker and it'll be more tender.
If you have a rice cooker, prepare the soaked rice in the rice cooker with about 1-1/2 cups water. You want the water to come about 1/4" above the top of the rice. If you don't have a rice cooker, you'll want to use a little more water and cook it in a lidded pot over medium heat until the water starts to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low and allow the rice to simmer quietly for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked through. Do not remove the lid while the rice is cooking! Removing the lid lets all of the heat escape and then the rice won't cook evenly.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the carrots. Finely dice them by hand, or you can cheat like I did by using a mandolin to cut the carrots into matchsticks and then bundle them together and cut cross-wise.
Mince some garlic and add to the bowl of carrots.
Next, add the rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and sesame oil to the carrots and garlic. Stir together and leave alone for a while. The carrots will soak up the vinegary flavors and also release some moisture.
Once the rice is cooked, add it to the seasoned carrots and gently stir together using a flat, wide rice scooper, if you have one, or carefully use a fork. You don't want to squish any of the rice grains together; you just want to evenly distribute the seasoning. Also, mix in the sesame seeds.
The seasoned aburage usually comes packed in a bit of "juice" so I like to gently squeeze the pockets to get rid of any excess liquid.
To fill the pockets, carefully open up the pouch, add a bit of rice, and gently pack it in with your fingers. You don't want to overstuff the pockets and you don't want to pack down the rice too much. You just want to fill the pouch enough so that it will keep its shape.
Here are the finished inari. Don't they look yum?
These make an amazing snack.
Here's the recipe page:

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