Last week, Jan and I went over the hill to Santa Cruz to visit her “new” brother. While we were there, we stopped by a large book store that was going out of business. The cookbook section was fairly picked over, but as I was perusing the fiction section I found a book Izakaya: Japanese Bar food—someone had obviously picked it up and then changed their mind, leaving it “where ever.” Their loss, my gain. This Sunday, I decided to make a Japanese bar style dinner.
The first dish I decided to try was beef with green onion skewers. Jan had me take a California twist on the recipe. Since I was already on the path toward California Fusion, I decided to do an Hawaiian twist on their onigiri recipe. Instead of the canned-tuna salad in the book, I decided to fill my rice balls with poke.
Karl’s Poke Onigiri
1 Tbs. hijiki seaweed
1 lb. ahi, sushi grade raw tuna
2 green onion, green parts only, minced
2 Tbs. Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1½ cups sushi grade rice
2 sheets of nori seaweed, each cut into six strips
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1. Put the hijiki in a small bowl and cover it with warm water.
2. Let the seaweed soak for 15-20 minutes and then drain the liquid, pressing out as much as possible.
3. Chop the tuna medium fine.
Tip: You do not want any large pieces, but you do not want to turn it into a paste either.
Note: Since you are going to chop up the tuna into bits, you do not need to get the pretty tuna pieces used for sashimi. As they cut up those attractive slabs of fish there are little scraps of tuna that remain. The store I went to sold these separately for half the price.
4. Put the ahi, hijiki, and the rest of the poke ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least ½ an hour.
Tip: While it is melding, remix the poke occasionally.
6. Put the rice in a rice steamer with sufficient water and cook your rice.
7. After the rice has finished steaming, turn it out onto a large casserole and break it up so that it can cool.
Tip: While you want the rice to cool fairly quickly, you do not want to mash the rice grains by stirring it too much.
Note: Unlike sushi rice, onigiri are made with unseasoned rice, just a little salt on the outside (see below.)
8. Place some plastic wrap in a ramekin or cup and spritz it with water.
Tip: Be generous with the wrap. If you use too little it is difficult to keep the rice from falling out as you start to twist it.
9. Wet your hands and press about ¾ of a cup of rice into the cup.
Tip: Press the rice into a thin(ish) layer over the bottom and sides of the ramekin. You are trying to create a pocket to hold the poke.
Note: A bowl of water is very useful to re-wet your hands. Do so frequently or the rice will stick to your fingers and make a mess.
10. Put a heaping tablespoon of the poke in the hole in the rice.
Tip: You do not want to fill the “rice bowl.”
Note: There should be enough bare rice left along the sides to fold over the filling and seal the ball.
11. Gather up the edges of the plastic wrap and bring the edges of the rice over the filling.
12. Twist the edges of the wrap together to form the rice into a sealed ball.
Tip: You want to twist it tightly, but not so much that the rice bursts through the plastic.
13. Place the onigiri on a plate with the twisted plastic facing down.
14. Repeat the process with more plastic wrap until you run out of poke or rice.
15. Set the onigiri aside for 30 minutes to firm up.
Tip: You generally do not want to refrigerate sushi or onigiri, as that will make the rice hard. However, if you have raw fish and it is going to be more than an hour before it is consumed, you can get away with it for 30 minutes.
Note: If you have any poke left you may simply serve it as is, with maybe a green onion garnish.
16. Cut the sheets of nori seaweed into six strips.
17. Wet your hands and sprinkle some salt on your palms.
18. Unwrap each onigiri and gently rub the salt onto the balls.
19. Place the onigiri on a sheet of nori—sealed side down—and place it on a serving platter.
20. Garnish with black sesame seeds.
21. Serve at room temperature.