03 July 2011

Intercontinental Peas and Carrots

By way of Japan. More specifically, my completely distorted perception of Japanese cuisine. It has been hot by SF standards, so standing in front of the stove is definitely not on my list of things to do (unless said stove is actually a grill, and outdoors where the wind neutralizes any warmth). I had my fill of middle eastern food yesterday in the form of falafel for lunch and kebab-ish chicken for dinner; I definitely didn't feel like making tabouleh despite it going well in warm weather. So, what to do? Onigiri!
Onigiri is a favorite of mine at sushi restaraunts; take a ball of rice, put something pickled (ume) or salty (salmon) in the center, wrap in nori, eat with hands. Can't get much simpler than that. In my laziness, I visited the standard grocery store. Now, this place stocks a fine selection of yuppie fare - more kinds of vegan and organic dips and chips than I can think of; a fine selection of cheeses and beers; locally sourced pre-made meals. You know, the standards. But what it doesn't stock is anything much pickled - my options were ginger (check), kimchi (no), asparagus (really?), and carrots (check). And what better to go with carrots than peas? Not from a can, mind you, but diced sugar snap peas. Plus (feel good about yourself indigenously sourced support the local population) purple jasmine sticky rice.
I did some quick searching for sushi rice instructions; it seems the "magic" is to pick the right kind of rice (sushi rice, but honestly anything sticky will do) and add in a vinegar/sugar/salt mixture after cooking. None too hard. The hardest part, it turns out, what forming a ball around the peas and carrots. I eventually gave up and simply mixed the peas and carrots into the rice, then formed that into balls. A very messy process, but they kept their shape.
Pea and Carrot Onigiri
Makes ~6 onigiri
2/3 cup uncooked sticky rice
enough water to cook said rice
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
<10 sugar snap peas, diced
<6 pickled carrots, diced
1 sheet sushi nori
pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and furikake for garnish (soy sauce and wasabi too?)

Cook the rice per instructions - for sticky rice, this usually means rinsing it until the water runs clear, soaking it for a bit, then cooking it in some water until it is done. When the rice is done, mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt together until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Technically, you should do this over heat but I don't know how much it matters as I skipped that part. In a non-metal bowl, turn the vinegar mixture into the rice until it is evenly spread. Place the rice in the fridge temporarily to cool.
Slice the nori into 6 (or more) strips. You'll want a sharp chef's knife - slicing along the nori is a risky proposition, as it will likely rip. Instead, rock the knife along a straight line with some downward force; the nori should cleanly split along the line. After letting the rice cool to "warm" instead of  "ouch ouch ouch I burned my hands", mix in the peas and carrots. Wet your hands, and form the mixture into 6 balls. Wrap each in two strips of nori. Garnish with sesame seeds and furikake, serve with other condiments on the side and optionally some cold, pre-seasoned tofu. Try and eat it with your hands, but you'll probably fail - nori isn't that easy to chew through.

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