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Rice Balls


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My bartender warned me, correctly, that the Onigiri Rice Balls ($2.75) were ample, and I probably ordered them too early in the meal (but nibbled them throughout). This is one dish - which, incidentally, I haven't ever seen in the DC area - that I know extremely well, Matt's (my son's) nana being from Okinawa, and this being her home-run specialty dish. Hers are to kill for, and yes, taken as a whole they're even better than these, but both the kombu and abura-miso at Daikaya were good enough to make me crave them a day later. Interestingly, you have to wrap your own seaweed around the ball of rice (Shhhhh! Don't tell Matt's nana, but the rice itself was better), and I prefer mine pre-wrapped so the seaweed gets moist and loses its crackle - a minor nitpick that only a Rice-Ball Snob would even mention. Save these for late in the meal - they'll make sure you don't go away hungry, and won't break the bank in doing so.

I think the Japanese prefer the nori on a riceball to be as crispy as possible :)

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I also learned, just this evening, that pork riceballs are distinctly Okinawan.

Right, pork dishes are an Okinawan specialty. I've never had pork-filled onigiri. Is it pork belly? Did you ever go to the restaurant on Richmond Hwy in Hybla Valley? I think it described itself as serving Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Okinawan cuisine :ph34r:

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Right, pork dishes are an Okinawan specialty. I've never had pork-filled onigiri. Is it pork belly? Did you ever go to the restaurant on Richmond Hwy in Hybla Valley? I think it described itself as serving Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Okinawan cuisine :ph34r:

Matt's Nana is Okinawan (Okinawa, I understand, is the "Alabama" of Japan :)) - I've been deprived from her awesome pork-filled rice balls. I think she just uses marinated pork strips (in a miso-based marinade which has a slightly sweet, chalky texture). Honestly, the only rice balls I've ever had have been hers, Daikaya Izakaya's, and Izakaya Seki's - Cizuka told me, just about an hour ago, that pork-stuffed rice balls are an Okinawan specialty. I had no idea, and both Matt and I were stunned when she told us that.

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I expected that the rice in the Onigiri Rice Balls to be seasoned but it tasted like it came right out of a rice cooker. Hands down the most disappointing offering we tried.

All three variants of rice balls I've tried in my life have had sticky, short-grained rice (think Kokuho Rose) which came straight from the rice cooker - I think the flavor is supposed to come from the center, and they're supposed to be more of a "peasant dish" than sushi.

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All three variants of rice balls I've tried in my life have had sticky, short-grained rice (think Kokuho Rose) which came straight from the rice cooker - I think the flavor is supposed to come from the center, and they're supposed to be more of a "peasant dish" than sushi.

Sushi is made with shari, which is seasoned by vinegar/sugar/salt/mirin. Onigiri, at least what I have had, is seasoned by sprinkling salt in your palm before pressing the rice together. While I avoid sushi from a store's refrigerator, pre-made rice balls are fine either purchased from the store or room temperature taken to a picnic from home.

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All three variants of rice balls I've tried in my life have had sticky, short-grained rice (think Kokuho Rose) which came straight from the rice cooker - I think the flavor is supposed to come from the center, and they're supposed to be more of a "peasant dish" than sushi.

Onigiri can be made with nothing at all on the inside. Sometimes can have furikake (variations of nori, fish flakes, crushed dried fish, sesame seeds, etc) sprinkled on the outside. I'd think of them as an easy meal to go. Could also be grilled, called yaki-onigiri. The ungrilled type are common for lunches, snacks, etc especially when going on a trip to the beach or similar. Our daughter loves them for breakfast made from the previous night's rice.

As for rice, try upgrading to Koshi hikari or Kagayaki. Kagayaki is on sale right now at H-Mart for $25 for a 15lb bag.

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Onigiri, at least what I have had, is seasoned by sprinkling salt in your palm before pressing the rice together.

That is exactly the seasoning I was looking for, not enough to notice that it is there, but enough to notice that it is not.

When I was very young I lived in Hakata and had a local nanny named Yoko (in the late 60's early 70's Japan even a junior naval officer could afford a nanny - my how times have changed). Yoko not only watched over my brother an I but also taught my mother how to make Japanese food. When she made rice she always added just a pinch of salt to the water and that is how I have always cooked rice, I find that while it is not obvious it does add flavor to the rice.

Right now my personal choice for rice is Nozomi.

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That is exactly the seasoning I was looking for, not enough to notice that it is there, but enough to notice that it is not.

When I was very young I lived in Hakata and had a local nanny named Yoko (in the late 60's early 70's Japan even a junior naval officer could afford a nanny - my how times have changed). Yoko not only watched over my brother an I but also taught my mother how to make Japanese food. When she made rice she always added just a pinch of salt to the water and that is how I have always cooked rice, I find that while it is not obvious it does add flavor to the rice.

Right now my personal choice for rice is Nozomi.

Could have also been miora.

http://korin.com/Miora-Rice-Cooking-Powder?sc=28&category=282889

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Miora contains an amylase, a protease, starch, sugar, and MSG and is used to cook rice for sushi. Unlikely that a homecook would make regular rice with Miora?

Agreed, plus I know this was just plain salt because for the most part she used what my mother had in the kitchen - not likely to find Miota in the cabinet of a farmgirl from Wisconsin.

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All three variants of rice balls I've tried in my life have had sticky, short-grained rice (think Kokuho Rose) which came straight from the rice cooker - I think the flavor is supposed to come from the center, and they're supposed to be more of a "peasant dish" than sushi.

We use Tamaki Gold rice. It's the best available rice grown in the US (from the Sacramento Valley). I'm crazy spoiled because my dad's side of the family are rice and watermelon/melon farmers -- might seem like an odd combination but it makes sense because both require massive amounts of water -- and our home is in the Niigata valley (where the Uono and Shinano Rivers merge) that produces THE BEST Koshihikari rice in the country. Most Japanese people don't regularly eat the amazing quality of rice that we have access to. Not to brag but this rice can run about $30/kg. My point is that my dad knows rice and Tamaki Gold is better than anything else in the US market. I'll keep an eye out at Hmart or Lotte to see if they might carry it.

On rice balls -- there is absolutely no steadfast rule as to what to put in it but it is never "seasoned" other than with the aforementioned salt in hand. It is best made with rice that is not right out of the rice cooker. It needs to dry out a bit and not be piping hot in order for it to stay together and also not stick to your hands. My personal favorite ingredients are mentaiko (which is spicy pollack roe) and rice balls with wakame gohan. It's when you mix dried wakame seaweed into the rice itself and it rehydrates and then you shape it into a rice ball. rice balls aren't always about putting an ingredient in the middle. this is why the variations for rice balls are endless!!!

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I just read that Japanese people have an inherited trait that allow them to utilize the nutrients from seaweed, but others do not have it. Which makes seaweed merely tasty fiber for the rest of us. Don't have time right now to search for the source. Maybe later.

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I just read that Japanese people have an inherited trait that allow them to utilize the nutrients from seaweed, but others do not have it. Which makes seaweed merely tasty fiber for the rest of us. Don't have time right now to search for the source. Maybe later.

Oh my...

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814601002734

(bioavailability)

(it's what's not)

(for dinner)

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I'd like to think that I can uptake nutrients from seaweed as well as most Asian folk, my ancestors have been fishermen & lived on the coast for generations, I love the taste & salty stuff, maybe I'm deluding myself....trying to eliminate rice from my my recent carb-limited diet is the most difficult thing I've faced...don't care if I ever have another potato, but I can't give up my rice....

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I'll keep an eye out at Hmart or Lotte to see if they might carry it.

I don't think Lotte has it, at least the one in Fairfax, but HMart and Super HMart has it, as that was where I bought Tamaki Gold before. El Grande in Springfield has it too. Great Wall used to have it, but I'm not sure if they do anymore, since I only go to HMart for rice now (more variety and the ability to mix it with Korean rice/grains options are readily available).

If I recall right, the smallest bag runs about $9-11, depending on where you buy; the medium sack ones are about $22-23(?), and I've not purchased a large one, so I'm not sure.

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Yep. Also, we cook it in a gas cooker. It might be worthwhile for the home cook to cook it on the stove top. I get better results when I can control the temperature myself than in an electric rice cooker and it's not necessarily more time.

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We use Tamaki Gold rice. It's the best available rice grown in the US (from the Sacramento Valley). I'm crazy spoiled because my dad's side of the family are rice and watermelon/melon farmers -- might seem like an odd combination but it makes sense because both require massive amounts of water -- and our home is in the Niigata valley (where the Uono and Shinano Rivers merge) that produces THE BEST Koshihikari rice in the country. Most Japanese people don't regularly eat the amazing quality of rice that we have access to. Not to brag but this rice can run about $30/kg. My point is that my dad knows rice and Tamaki Gold is better than anything else in the US market. I'll keep an eye out at Hmart or Lotte to see if they might carry it.

Thanks for the tip...we found the 5 lb nitrogen-purged bag for a paltry $13ish at H Mart in Gaithersburg (a worthwhile browse following a Tortacos lunch run) and it's excellent stuff. Does need to be properly washed to avoid forming a starchy film at the bottom of the pot.

Wish I knew something about making rice balls, but having just watched _When the Last Sword Is Drawn_ a few weeks ago, the mere thought of hand forming a rice ball makes me a bit weepy. Maybe a few months from now.

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