Tag Archives: Japanese

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


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

Miso madness: Tofu, butternut squash, eggplant & red cabbage

2 Sep

And we’re back. Man is currently away, so during these times Woman tends to have dinners that consist largely of yoghurt and vegetables, but this week I’m making an effort.

After a weekend in Paris on a diet that was about 50% cheese, bread and red wine, I felt like something a little less… well, basically something with a vegetable.

(So these measurements are for one – but you should take into account that I basically drink this miso sauce in the process of making it. I love umami so much).

Miso sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tsp miso paste
  • 2 tsp tamari/soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice


  • 1/3 block of silken tofu
  • 3 cm chunk of red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 4cm chunk of butternut squash, sliced about 4mm
  • 1/3 of medium eggplant, sliced into discs

There’s lots of veg in here because I forgo’ed noodles or rice and such.

So, prepare sauce by whisking all together.

Slice tofu into 1.5cm slices and put on clean kitchen or paper towels to drain.

Fry the squash and eggplant in a sprinkling of veg oil.

Arrange the red cabbage on plate, stack up the cooked veg and top with the raw silken tofu. Drizzle sauce over all.

Eat alone and  be impressed with the effort you make for yourself. Feel worthy and satisfied with the world as a whole.

Estimated cost: £1.20

Musical accompaniment: Antony and the Johnsons

East meets East: Lemongrass & miso mushroom udon with silken tofu

22 Aug

If you don’t eat tofu, then you probably think tofu is tofu and always bad (direct quote from work BBQ last week – alack, my attempts at grilling the bean curd on a disposable barbie failed to disprove. Alack).

But it’s not. Silken tofu has this amazing texture – kinda silken really. And it can be eaten raw, which is probably the best way to go about it. Plus, you can buy a tetra pak (long life pack) of it in Sainsbury’s for a quid and leave it your cupboard for ages until you’re forced to come up with some East is East recipe to justify ever having bought it in the first place. We made this tonight and not only did it take about 10 minutes it total, but Man had to listen to me congratulate myself all evening about both the meal and my performance in the preceding step class. See me lunge!

East meets East tasty broth udon and tofu:

  • 1 packet udon noodles
  • 5 large chestnut (or shitake if you’re fancy) mushrooms sliced
  • 1 packet silken tofu
  • 1/3 lemongrass stick – finely sliced and then macerated really well in a mortar and pestle
  • 2cm chunk of ginger, finely julienned
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 2 TBSP miso paste (we used barley)
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp (or less) sesame oil
  • 1/2 red birds eye chili
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1.5 – 2 C water

Remove tofu from packet and let drain over napkin, sliced however you fancy it.

Heat plain oil in a small pot, adding the lemongrass then ginger and a splash of soy sauce. Throw in mushrooms, half the miso and stir around ’til mushrooms soften.

Add water (should just reach the level of mushrooms), sesame oil and remaining miso and soy sauce. Some chili can go in now if you so please.

Once the mushroom broth is tasting decent, throw in the udon and cook through.

Pile the mushroom and noodles into 2 serving bowls. Top with sliced tofu then pour over remaining miso-y, mushroom-y broth. Sprinkle with spring onion and chili.

Ta da.

Estimated cost: £2.70

Musical accompaniment: Deer Tick

Vegetarian sushi

15 Aug

This is a meal that started as a point, and that point was that sushi can exist without fish. I feel we made our point – to Man Woman, at least.

This is finnicky, and probably best saved for when you’ve got more people to feed, because getting some variety is going to be a pain in the arse.

We used a cup of rice to make 8, rather thin-ish nori rolls. Click here for rolling and rice preparation info.

Sushi fillings:

  1. Smoked tofu, mango, and Japanese chili dust
  2. Miso-soy-marinated eggplant and avocado
  3. Spinach (wilted, drained and shredded), beetroot and Japanese mayonnaise
  4. Grated carrot, corn and spring onion in Japanese mayo
  5. Paprika roasted sweet potato, asparagus and avocado (didn’t make it this time)

All are very self-explanatory except the eggplant. Fry up some eggplant (one small Asian eggplant will do it) and drain on kitchen towel. In a small bowl mix 1.5 tsp of miso, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1.5 TBSP tamari (or soy sauce), 1 tsp grated ginger and a dash of water. Pour miso mix over eggplant as it cools.

As for rolling the sushi and preparing the rice, click here for some advice.

But rest assured, we’re not particularly dexterous, but we are more than able to make sushi that stuck together. (Although on a particularly worthy health kick we used brown sushi rice, which will never be as easy to work with as white rice, but it does give the sushi a bit of an earthy bite).

Estimated cost: Too hard to say – bits of everything.
Musical accompaniment: Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes

Review: Shiso I’m going to miss you most of all

5 Aug

Oh, Shiso. How amazing you were when I ate fish.

How we long for those days, just two months ago, when we could have gorged on your soft-shell crab nori rolls, picked at your seared tuna sashimi in mustard miso sauce, carelessly thrown back the world’s best California roll.

Oh, Shiso, I’m going to miss you most of all.

Shiso is excellent Japanese.  A surprisingly cool set-up in Harringey which home delivers – can life possibly hold any greater wonder? For vegetarians, though,  the appeal of Shiso is rather limited to the table football in the dining area. Eating there on Tuesday night I had a choice of agadashi tofu (very good, soft nearly custard-like tofu), veggie tempura (it’s just deep-fried veg), marinated eggplant (really quite divine in it’s soy-soaked-ness) or veggie gyoza.  All of which were spot on – fresh, accompanied by delicately flavoured sauces and presented very well in a sunny courtyard dining area. However, having all but exhausted the menu in one sitting, I don’t know if I can ever really return.

I sigh. I sigh deep in my soul.

Price per head: £20 (eating with a fish-eater and with a beer each)

Friendliness to veggies: 3/10

Overall rating: 9/10

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