Sunday, January 17, 2010

まぐろ の おむすび - Tuna Omusubi!

ごめなさい ございます, Sorry for the long absence.
But here we are as promised, we're back! It was two winters ago back when we used to get Hollywood UTB Television (Japanese programing with Engirish subtitles) that we first got the idea for this post. It was on the NHK Dramedy 地獄の沙汰もヨメ次第(Jigoku no sata mo yome shidai) aka Wives Make the World Go Round that we were first introduced to Omusubi more commonly known as the rice ball. In the show, Makoto Tachibana  played by Makiko Esumi owns a Omusubi-Ya with the hopes of bringing Japanese Omusubi to New York. Her only obstacle is her hard core traditionalist mother in law named Chiyoko Morifuku played by Yoko Nogiwa who lives in Kimono and takes Japanese traditions seriously. Her extensive omusubi making on the show turned us on to this traditional Japanese stable.

Sure, anyone living close to Little Tokyo or any other Nihon Machi can go purchase Onigiri. But if this is not the case and you'd like to try your hand at making it at home as we have, then you can follow along the way we did ours.
To make Omusubi you'll need the following things:
  1. 4 cups Short Grained Rice
  2. 1/3 cup Rice Vinegar
  3. Salt
  4. 1pkg Nori
  5. 3 cans of Tuna
  6. Patience!
If you have ever made Mexican Tamales, you know you are in for a time consuming labor of love. And if Chiyoko Morifuku had anything to say about it she'd tell you that you really do this with spirit. That or she'd hit you over the head with her shamisen. So let's cook with gusto and do our best! がんばって ください!

So as you might have guessed, we are going to need some rice. Short grained sushi rice is optimum. I prefer to use Matsuri Premium Rice for my Japanese Cooking.
Prepare rice as you would normally do. One part rice per part water and remember to put a dash of salt. Generally, I use two cups of rice to make six Omusubi. Depending on how large or small you make them, quantities may vary.

As with any other Japanese rice, add a cap full per cup of rice of Rice Vinegar and stir in. Shake your pot from side to side t absorb additional moisture.

Before you do anything else, fan your rice! You will be working with your hands and the last thing you want to do is burn your self with hot scalding rice in your hands.

Any good sized Japanese fan you have lying around from Obon will do!
Had I known this the first time I made Omusubi I would have not had to write this all so important reminder. And if this is your first time making Omusubi then you have already avoided your first crucial mistake. You see this is why I write this blog so you can learn how to and not to do in Japanese traditional or Japanese inspired cooking.

With your rice all squared away you will be ready for the next step.

In making Omusubi it is generally recommended to use small rice bowls in your preparation.

If you are a Shintoist like me you'll understand the importance of salt.
Salt is used for both purification and to keep the rice from sticking to your hands.

So have a bowl of salt handy because you will be needing it!

If you have already rubbed salt in your hands then you can proceed to the next step.

Take out your rice bowl and half way fill it with rice.
If the rice is still steaming, use your fan to cool it down.

My bowls are slightly over the size of my hands. You may want to use smaller bowls. I do not recommend using anything larger than this sized bowl or else you will make gargantuan rice balls that only a Sumo Wrestler could appreciate.

Next take a spoonful of canned tuna or cooked salmon meat.
Place it neatly in the center.

I recommend using tuna that has been preserved in water.
However you can use other available methods.

It's personal preference I would say.

With your rice spoon, place a small scoop of rice over the tuna covering it completely.

Sure this may seen obvious but in case you've never seen omusubi much less made it yourself I'd like to leave the detail so you don't write me and say I've got scalding rice in my what?

So now if your rice bowl looks like this, then you are ready to shape it into a rice ball.

Now if you have ever made home made meatballs before, then this will seem very familiar.

As previously aforementioned, you'll want to make sure your hands have been rubbed with salt.

You'll next turn your rice bowl upside down and into your hand.

From here, you will shape the rice by turning and squeezing the rice into a firmly packed, neatly shaped round rice ball to the best of your ability. The sticky rice combined with the salt will fuse the rice together when compressed. Make sure you shape your rice into a neat ball.

Remember, in Japanese Cooking presentation is very important!

Once your rice ball is ready you will be ready to add your precut Nori.

Lay the nori out flat and place the rice ball at one side.

Gently roll the riceball so that the nori carefully wraps around in the middle.

Take your time.

Once you have successfully rolled your first Omusubi, repeat the process. You will want to eat them within 24 hours. Keep covered so the rice will not harden.

You may spend two to three hours doing this but in the end you will end up with a traditional Japanese staple that you can impress your friends with.

We first debut'd ours at the Shinkendo Honbu Dojo in Little Tokyo. We deliberately did not tell Mrs. Obata Sensei who made this until we heard the first Oiishii from one of the resident Nikkei namely Mrs. Obata herself who was really impressed to see a non-Nihon-jin like me make Omusubi. This turned out to be a big hit for us and can be for you too!


(Seen here is the batch we made for the Koyasan Buddhist Temple)

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