I feel like it’s a holiday! It is, in actuality, a holiday. It’s definitely Labor Day but I care more about the vegan month of food than that. I spent today off from work but working in my kitchen all the same. I prepared some deliciousness to share with everyone and I’m excited to unveil my first recipe.
I have decided to choose a theme for this month’s blog posts since it would help me narrow down my ideas. I need to do that or I will be indecisive and all over the place. So, I chose…
I have wanted to make this blog inclusive of foods and flavors that I have grown up with. I also wanted to feature recipes and ideas that are fusions of my ethnicity from both sides of my family. I have mostly grown up on a standard American diet with bits of Japanese, Italian, and German cooking. After I decided to become a vegan, I branched out of my comfort zone and tried all different types of food. I still have many ethnic foods to explore, but for now I will showcase my number one favorite type!
This is hardly a recipe. I think onigiri, or rice balls, are a very simple home cooked snack that don’t require a whole lot of thinking. I do, however, see many places with fancy onigiri these days. It really makes me happy to see people embracing this simple comfort food. I used to eat these when I was little as a lunch, breakfast or snack. I would use only white rice and nori (seaweed). The ones I have made here a little more substantial because they have delicious azuki beans inside them!
Azuki beans are small red beans that are used in Japanese cooking for many savory and sweet dishes. I used to hate them when I was little, but I’ve learned to absolutely love them today. They don’t have much flavor which lends them to many different uses. These onigiri were created with the dish seki-han in mind, which is a modest rice and beans dish usually served for celebrations in Japan (weddings, New Year’s…). I ate seki-han with my family recently to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th anniversary.
If you are making seki-han from scratch, cook the rice and beans together. Traditionally, the dish is cooked this way to impart a red hue to the rice (usually white Japanese sushi rice). I used a sweet brown rice which is the unrefined version of sushi rice. I love its nutty and sweet flavor. This rice, along with the azuki beans, can be used for dessert dishes as well. (Anyone else thinking rice pudding? YUM.)
I used a canned variety of azuki beans here, which is fine if you don’t feel like waiting for the dried ones to cook. I recommend Eden brand beans. They have a BPA-free can liner and they don’t add anything weird to their beans. They are also organic! ( Don’t be confused by the romanization of azuki as “aduki” or “adzuki”. It’s the same word just using different letters to spell out the Japanese word: あずき . I just like to use the most literal translation possible because I’m anal. ^_^’ )
Yield: about 8 large onigiri (depends how you shape them)
- 1 cup cooked sweet brown rice/white sushi rice*, cooled (room temp. is best)
- 1 can (or less, depending how chock full of beans you want them to be!) azuki beans, drained
- 2 dried nori sheets (seaweed), optional
- gomashio (black sesame salt) for garnish, optional
* I use a rice cooker to make my rice. I usually use a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 2 cups water. You can always cook your rice on the stove using the same ratio. If you are using white rice, follow the instructions on the package or from the bulk section where you bought it from.
- Fold all of the rice and beans together in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or rice paddle. Be gentle! ❤
- Take out the nori sheets and cut them into thirds using kitchen scissors. Or, you could keep it “rustic” like me and tear them.
- Make sure to form the onigiri either by a sink or by a big bowl of water to dip your hands in. The rice and beans are sticky!
- Take about a 1/2 cup of rice mixture at a time and mold it with your hands, pressing firmly. The goal is to compact the rice balls so they don’t fall apart. There is no definitive shape you must use. I made mine into triangles. If it’s easier, you can just make them round. Or, you could do some crazy things like this girl. Have fun!
- If you would like, you can fill these with something. I’ve used seaweed, leftover tempeh or tofu, or umeboshi (pickled plums). My favorite is umeboshi, but its flavor is a bit intense for first timers and kids. It’s very salty and sour. If you fill the onigiri, just make sure to cover the filling completely as you’re molding it.
- Once the onigiri are formed, take a sheet of nori (if using) and cover each one. I like to put the rice ball in the center of the strip of nori and fold up the sides. If there’s excess, trim it off for a snack! ^_^