Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Nori Is Green..

I didn't plan at all for a St. Patrick's Day post today. Being part Irish I have absolutely no excuse! I've been working on a Fish-'n'-Chips post (Angela's Ashes-ish) but I felt it was still a bit premature to up and none were from Irish Pubs anyway.

The fantastic weather has been holding up so had a long overdue car wash and ate a Chick-O-Stick during. :) Boy was it warm today!

Never had a Chick-O-Stick while I'm pretty sure I first heard about it on Foodnetwork's Unwrapped - the show that I don't really watch but have on as a background while I do other things. The bright orange color may look like a cheesy flavored savory snack but it's actually sweet and doesn't have anything to do with chickens (or chicks) whatsoever. Maybe the outside texture resembles fried chicken? Anyway, when you take a bite the coconutty shell shatters into flavor bits recognizably similar to the butter-flaky Butterfinger sans the chocolate. Does just as a good job sticking to your teeth as well. Yay I had my first Chick-O-Stick.

La Jolla Village Mobil, 3233 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037

So back to St. Pat's.. Plan-B was to look in my drafts folder for anything I ate or thought of food related that was Green.. I know it's a stretch but Nori is green! Love it. I can eat some teriyaki flavored Yama-Moto-Yama or better yet the roasty and flavorful sesame seed oiled Korean version as a snack as-is.. Mmm.
As a proper meal though maybe my personal first association with Nori would be the Onigiri rice ball. My Convenience Store Onigiri post here and another on Onigiri Robots here (that unfortunately now has a lot of dead links so I'll have to do an update in the future).

I kinda wish Mitsuwa, Marukai, and Nijiya would get more creative with their Onigiri fillings. The selection of Ume plum, Sake Salmon, Konbu Seaweed and Tarako/Mentaiko Cod Roe are good classics but feel outdated and as far as attracting the younger generation a pretty dull lineup. I love Salmon and Mentaiko but there needs to be an additional twist. A great YouTube vid on a popular store off the JR Juzo Station that specializes in hand made Onigiri Rice Balls.. I think the name is Kamatoya.

These are the cool kinds where the generous fillings show off themselves by protruding out of the rice like plants sprouting off the melting snow grounds during the first signs of Spring. And the top 5 countdown from their 40+ variety goes as follows:

No. 5 - Miso Katsu. A crispy fried pork cutlet with a sweet/savory miso dressing.
No. 4 - Chicken Karaage. Chicken marinated in a proprietary house marinade, twice fried to crispy perfection.
No. 3 - Good ol' Sake Salmon. Ok, you can keep this classic Mitsuwa/Nijiya/Marukai.. At Kamatoya the fish is attained from a trusted source of quality unexpected in a humble rice ball.
No. 2 - EGGPLANT MISO! Fried eggplant with the same sweet/savory miso used on the katsu wrapped in Ooba shiso leaf, popular amongst young and old. My mouth is watering..
No. 1 - Shrimp Tempura. Actually a trusty classic in the new order of Onigiri-dom called the tenmusu (tempura + musubi) but here offered in two ways, salt and soy sauce flavored. Another popular favorite of both young and old.

And they're all a buck each! The video also mentions that the owner Soeno-san was a one time Japan's TV Champion winner (as Onigiri King). Here is a man that specializes.. :) So another Top Five tips from the rice ball mystro himself on how to make great onigiri that has a tastier shelf life.. (in the handmade method btw..).

1 - Cook the rice with less water. About 10% less he mentioned. Rice balls are typically eaten after sitting for a while and the firmer rice tastes better after time in this case.
2 - Let the cooked rice cool off to room temp before using. This again ensures a rice ball that is as tasty as it was when constructed. Piping hot rice is your enemy.
3 - Don't over moisten your hand. When making rice balls by hand you lightly wet your fingers and palm for the salt to stick when dipped but over moisturizing will not make of good eats. Makes sense..
4 - Don't skimp on salt. While over salting is an obvious no no, according to Mr. S. salt actually helps retain moisture in the onigiri and brings out the sweetness of the rice. Time will tell.
5 - Don't pack the rice too tight. Not firm enough will obviously make your creation fall apart but too much pressure is not good. Like a good Nigiri Sushi you need some air for good Onigiri. For the big boys maybe investing in this robot that injects air into the rice is a good investment.(?)

And I'll turn this all upside down by saying that the best I ever had was when I made myself one in the wee days when returning home from soccer practice. Washed and salted my hands liberally and made myself the most burning hot onigiri I can bare to hold straight out of the rice pot.. And ate it immediately. So the Pro's pointers are probably great when packing for a picnic or of course running your own omusubi business..?

That's all for tonight.. Thanks for visiting!


K and S said...

yum and only $1 each what a bargain!

Kirbie said...

Ooh, I didnt even realize there were more creative fillings! Sounds yummy

Dennis K. said...

Hi K&S, seriously!

Hi Kirbie, the shrimp tenmusu is a Nagoya prefecture specialty, but I think others in the shop came about by trial and error. Nobody takes chances here.. How boring.. :(

caninecologne said...

hi dennis - those chick o sticks are pretty good! u don't see those too often!

word ver:

Dennis K. said...

Hi CC, they had them at this gas station. It was like a coconut butterfinger without the chocolate.. I liked them too!

edjusted said...

Mmm, I love onigiri. If I lived in Japan, I'd probably alternate between ramen and onigiri all the time. But my favorite is still sake. :)

Dennis K. said...

Hi edjusted! Yeah I used to love it when my parents would let me buy that jar of shio-jyake. Never lasted very long.. :)

Wandering Chopsticks said...

You're part Irish? Has this come up before?

VNese rice balls, we make it a bit wet so it holds together better. Does the onigiri hold together well if it's drier?

Dennis K. said...

Hi WC! Haha, probably not.. I should've mentioned maybe this was for japanese short grain rice. A bit more glutinous and quite sticky already..

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Ah, that makes sense. I was thinking of jasmine rice. :)

Years ago when I was in Dublin, I stayed at a hotel that used to be the homes of two poets. One of them was the former townhouse of Lafcadio Hearn, who moved to Japan and took on the name Koizumi Yakumo and wrote Japanese legends and ghost stories. So there's your Japanese-Irish connection. :P

Dennis K. said...

What a cool story WC.. I just looked him up, what a fascinating guy! Never been to Ireland yet but one of these days! :)