Tag Archives: Asian

Sesame rice balls (ongiri)

13 Jun

Ongiri for dinner

Ongiri for lunch

Leftover sushi bits are hard things to deal with, freshness being kinda the critical element of sushi and all Japanese wonders. After a sushi dinner party, Man Woman had an abundance of cooked rice and would-be nori roll fillings still hanging about and decided, when all other options fall flat, make balls.

This is inspired by the rice balls from the macrobiotic restaurant in Sydney Iku, which nourished Woman during many long and impoverishing journeys through Glebe markets. As a leftover recipe we used what we had leftover – a bit of carrot, some errant aspargus spears, etcetera. Use whatever you have to hand, but I’d try to keep the rice:non-rice ratio faily similar to this, because too much non-mushable veg (sweet potato and the like would be an exception) would stop this from binding.

I also have on good authority that kneading of this mix is crucial to ensure it holds.

Rice balls (ongiri). Makes 8 – 10 – serves 2 to 4 people

  • 1 C sushi rice uncooked
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/3 C tofu (ideally a flavoured one – smoked or some such)
  • 1/4 C asparagus
  • 1/3 C carrot
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp mirin (sweet cooking wine – optional)
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 1.25 C water – for cooking the rice
  • Sesame seeds – for rolling

Chop vegetables up quite small (see below pic as a guide) and mix with cooked rice. Add ginger, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil and mirin – if using. If you, perchance, have any left over picked ginger knocking about in the fridge, chuck that in promptly.

With wet hands, mix the rice and veg, pressing down as though kneading dough.

Keep a bowl of water next to you and pour out about half a cup of sesame seeds onto a plate.

Make balls by scooping a palmful of rice mix into your wet hands (the repetition of wet hands is a purposeful emphasis – without repeatedly dipping your hands into water or the like, the sushi rice will stick to you, not itself and you will never, ever create rice balls). Firmly shape into a ball for about a minute, if not a bit longer. Roll in sesame seeds, coating entirely, and set aside.

I put my rice balls in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking, but it’s not necessary.

Ongiri in process

Fry or bake?

You can shallow fry these in about 1cm of vegetable oil, turning as the seeds in the oil golden. This creates a nice chewy crust which contrasts nicely with the soft rice inside – it is, however, frying and thus bad for you and doesn’t have that  clean feeling of not frying.

For baking, pre-heat the oven to 190C. Brush the balls lightly in sesame or veggie oil. Bake for about half an hour or until the crust gets coloured – these won’t get as dark as the fried balls, but the crust does get that chewy texture. You don’t have the oil weighing you down after the meal as the fried ones do and the chance of burning yourself with an errant, angry sesame seed flying out of a hot pan of oil are markedly lessened. Bake, I reckon.

Either way serve with salad. I also made a quick lemon, black bean and ginger sauce to go with it (just mix these ingredients and adjust to taste).

Estimated cost: £2.50

Musical accompaniment: Lia Ices

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Heart-warming miso and noodle soup

16 Mar

This is a great soup for those early March nights when you, by rights, had expected the weather to be getting warmer, but when it is totally incorrectly freezing. Compounded with that, it’s an exceptionally healthy soup which is perfect for when, on those freezing early March nights, you decide to run straight home after work and skip the gym because it’s too cold. In the gym. Umm.

Miso and noodle soup

  • 2.5 TBSP shiro (or light) miso paste (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 shallot sliced finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 8 shitake or dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 1 C cauliflower
  • 1/4 C wakame seaweed
  • 750ml (3 C) water
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 packet thick udon noodles

In a bowl, cover dried mushrooms with 250ml of hot water.

In a hot pot, heat a bit of vegetable oil and cook shallot and garlic until they have a bit of colour.

Add water, cauliflower (or other vegetable), miso paste and mushrooms with the water they were soaking in, keeping the water at a simmer.

Once mushrooms are softened and cooked enough to eat – say 15 – 20 minutes after they first started soaking – add the noodles.

Cook for another few minutes until noodles are cooked through.

Serve with spring onion and some Japanese chili flakes.

Estimated cost:£1.80

Musical accompaniment: Classical somesuch

Vegetarian satay sticks

11 Mar

Satay chicken, blah. It’s all about cauliflower. Cauliflower kicks the arse of chicken.

Peanut satay sauce*

  • 1/2 C peanut butter (get one without added sugar)
  • 1/4 C coconut milk
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 2 lime leaves
  • 1/2 red birds eye chilli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Satay sticks (to make 4 satay sticks)

  • About 1/4 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets (but any veg you like, cauliflower is good in that it can hold onto sauces both in flavour and structure)

Heat a small amount of peanut or veg oil in a small pan. Throw in chopped shallots.

Add remaining ingredients, adding extra water, lemon juice, coconut or peanut butter according to taste.

Meanwhile, cook cauliflower florets in another pan in a bit of veg oil. Allow to blacken in parts. When cooked stick onto skewers.

Remove lime leaves from satay sauce and pour over cauliflower skewers.

* This makes enough for probably double the amount of skewers.

Estimated cost: £2

Musical accompaniment: The Cave Singers

Black sticky rice pudding with mango jelly

10 Mar

O, black sticky rice. You are delicious, black sticky rice.

You could (and some might say, Woman did) eat this sticky rice pudding straight off the hob. Or you could go a bit more fancy if you fancy, like here. Some recipes suggest steaming the rice, but this is just a lot quicker.

Black sticky rice pudding (serves 4)

  • 1/4C black glutinous rice
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/2 C coconut milk
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar

Mango jelly

  • 1/2 C mango puree
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 TBSP agar agar flakes

Soak black rice overnight in water. Rinse and throw in a small pot with water and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce and add coconut milk. Cook until the rice still has bite, but is soft inside.

As mentioned, you go ahead and eat it now if you want, but you might want to…

Portion out the sticky rice into glasses (or whatever) and chill in the fridge overnight.

The next day, make the mango jelly (this will produce excess, that you can simply chuck into another glass for pure mango jelly).

Add cold water and agar agar flakes into a pot and bring to the boil, without stirring. Reduce heat and stir occasionally. Add the mango puree and stir until the agar agar is totally dissolved. The liquid will not seem very thick, but have faith.

Top each of the black sticky rice pots with about 3 TBSP of the mango jelly liquid, and let cool and set either in the fridge or outside. Should only take an hour or two to set.

Serve with hot toasted coconut flakes and green mango.

Estimated cost: £2

Musical accompaniment: The Felice Brothers

San choy bow (sans pork for vegetarians)

9 Mar

Woman spent her childhood dinners out normally at the Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney’s inner west. Around the lazy Susan at these restaurants san choy bow was always a massive family favourite, involving many a pair of trousers ruined by the juices oozing out of poorly constructed lettuce rolls.

Traditionally this uses pork mince, which brings back less rosy memories of disconcerting crunchiness and the odd piece of gristle. Tofu is much less grisly. And Woman’s meat-lovin’ parents actually gave this vegan version the thumbs up during a trial run in Sydney. Gristle-free since 2001!

San choy bow (serves 2 as main, or up to 6 as part of Asian sharing menu)

  • 600g tofu, mashed with potato masher
  • 1/2 C vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/3 C lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP grated fresh ginger
  • 1 TBSP sweet chili sauce
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 iceberg lettuce

Cut tofu into pieces and drain for a few hours, trying to get rid of as much excess liquid as possible.

Mix together sauce ingredients (not including spring onion). After tofu has been draining for a while, mash up until it’s kinda mince-like. Pour over the sauce and let marinate for a few hours – or you can also cook straight away.

Cook simply by throwing the tofu into a hot pan for a few minutes. Serve with spring onions thrown through.

Serve wrapped up in lettuce leaves.

Estimated cost: £2.20

Musical accompaniment: Onra

Spinach and coconut steamed wonton

2 Mar

Yum. Yum. This is Man Woman’s first foray into wonton-making. This is a homage to the amazing prawn dumplings at Isarn in Islington, but, well without the defining ingredient. These little dumplings are fun, light and fragrant. That’s all. Won ton, tonne of fun!

Spinach coconut steamed wonton (makes 12 wonton)

  • 1 C frozen spinach
  • 2 TBSP coconut milk
  • 1 spring onion finely sliced
  • 2 tsp grated galangal
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • Wonton papers

Defrost spinach. Heat in a pan with coconut milk, galangal and ginger.

Place about 2 tsp of spinach mix in the centre of each wonton paper. Bring together four corners and press close, like a cartoon bank money bag or some such. This won’t need you to oil or put any water on the wonton.

Steam for about 5 minutes.

Some of Man Woman’s wonton stuck to the steamer. A friend said lining the steamer with rice paper might prevent this, I imagine probably a bit of muslin cloth might also do the trick.

Estimated cost: £2

Musical accompaniment: Damien Jurado

Fragrant Thai green curry with lotus root

1 Mar


It’s easy – and perhaps wise – to reach for the tinned Thai green curry paste when you’re planning to make a Thai green curry. If you can get real curry paste from a proper Asian grocery, well lucky rabbit. But there are somethings that you may want to consider: A) there’s probably some sauce made from fermented fish and seafood pieces involved in that tasty paste; B) You’re not really getting it from an Asian grocer, are you? It’s Sainsbury’s home brand, yeah? Right? Right; C) This is better.

This is titled ‘fragrant’ to indicate it’s not going to blow your head off. Add more chili if you want more chili.

Man Woman have made this recipe with bay leaf in lieu of kaffir lime and chili flakes to replace birds eye chilli – and it worked, oddly.

Curry paste

  • 1 lemon grass stick, finely chopped
  • 10 cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp galangal grated (optional)
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/s birds eye chili
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP coriander stalks, chopped

Remaining curry ingredients (serves 2 – 4)

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 C coconut milk
  • 1 C water
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 pak choi
  • Handful of mange tout (snow peas)
  • 10 baby corn
  • 12 lotus root slices (available frozen from Asian grocers)

Mix curry paste ingredients in a mortar and pestle.

Heat some oil in a pot, add coriander seeds then curry paste. Cook for a few minutes, the paste should be very fragrant. Add water and kaffir lime leaves.

Cook for another little while, then add coconut milk and vegetables. (Obviously you can use any veg you like, but I just added the ingredients here ’cause lotus root is so gorgeous that you should consider using it).

Serve when veg is cooked, but still crunchy. Top with bean sprouts and fresh coriander.

Estimated cost: £5.10

Musical accompaniment: Onra

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