Friday, February 28, 2014

Rice Balls / 饭团 / Onigiri


Although this photo does not look fantastic, I feel too excited to not share this recipe :D Lately, I have been busy reading up and experimenting making onigiri / rice ball / samgap gimbap. It all started as my girl has to stay back in school quite often now to attend CCA or supplementary classes. Her school moved to a temporary site this year and many of the food stalls at her school canteen have changed, which was followed by a price increase and drop in food standard. From what I gathered from her, a plate of plain white rice with one braised egg (卤蛋) costs $1. That does not sound very appetizing or healthy. Thus, the idea of packing lunch for her sparked off.


Through researching on the Internet, I found many fantastic blogs / sites on kids lunch box recipes, just to share a few: Justonecookbook, Justhungry and Justbento, Maangchi (which has videos and recipes on gimbap making), and Caro 自在生活. My main concern was how to ensure that the lunch would be safe for consumption at 1pm, as the weather in Singapore is simply too hot and humid. I went hunting around for a lunch box with insulated bag and finally settled with a lock-n-lock lunch box with insulated bag, the smallest I can find :p I also learned that salt, sugar and vinegar are ingredients that will help keep the rice balls stay fresh. I like the idea of freezing a packet drink in the freezer and pack it into the lunch bag together with the lunch box. That way, the packet drink will serve as an ice pack, as well as ready for drinking by lunch time.

Anyway, to cut the long story short, I have been making onigiri for my girl for 2-3 weeks. Today, I tried using a combination of short grain white rice with multigrains 五谷米. The colors of the rice look beautiful. Have you tried the QQ rice? Seems like it is from Taiwan, and I really like their rice balls, especially the purple rice ones. I sighted purple rice grain in Isetan supermarket, but it was quite expensive. I decided to try out this multigrains as a small packet was available at NTUC Xtra (350g). Inspired the blogs I have read, I used pork floss, eggs, toasted sesame seeds and fried dried shrimp as the filling. It was breakfast for my hubby today - my trusted, no-nonsense food taster for my bakes/cooking. He said I passed with flying colors! Wow, that really made my day! :)

Many many thanks to the kind bloggers for sharing their recipes and tips generously, I do appreciate very much as I have benefited a lot from these teachers. Thanks Nami, Maki and Carol! :)

Ingredients
1/4 cup* of multigrain (五谷米 - I used Greenmax fine multi grains)
3/4 cup* of short-grain rice
Water (I used Japanese electric rice cooker, fill water to slightly above 1 cup Jasmine rice mark)
1 tsp low-sodium salt
1 egg
Pork floss
Fried dry shrimp (my mom fried those for me :D lucky me)

* Please note that the "cup" here refers to the rice cup that comes with the rice cooker

Method

Cooking the rice:
1. Rinse multigrains and drain (see packet instruction).
2. Wash short-grain rice thoroughly (Justonecookbook and Justhungry have very comprehensive and detailed instructions on how to cook rice).
3. Place multi grains and short-grain rice in the rice cooker, fill water to slightly above the "1 cup" Jasmine rice mark. The ratio of multi grains to water is about 1:1.2, or follow the packet instruction. Set timer to cook rice (On the night prior to preparing the rice balls, I  set the rice cooker timer to cook rice 6 hours later, and the rice was cooked and ready the next morning. The soaking time varies for different types of rice. I read that, the rice may ferment in hot and humid weather if it is soaked for more than 6 hours :p So you may want to stick to maximum 6 hours).

Preparing the rice:
1. Rinse a big bowl and rice paddle. Scoop cooked rice from rice cooker into the bowl. Add 1 tsp of salt to the rice and "cut" the rice. Do not press the rice down. Use cut and toss method to evenly coat the rice with salt and to cool it. Cover with kitchen towel and set aside**.
2. Beat the egg using chopstick and fry it using a frying pan. I did not use any oil as I am using the Happy Call diamond pan. Set the fried egg aside.

Assemble the rice balls:
1. Place a clean kitchen towel /  paper kitchen towel on the working table. Place a piece of cling wrap on top of the towel (Carol's blog has very clear instructions with photos on how to wrap a rice ball)
2. Place rice on top of the cling wrap and flatten using the rice paddle or a spoon. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top of the rice. Continue to place dried shrimp, floss, and egg on the rice.
3. Gather the cling wrap and press the rice to form a ball / triangle / any shape you want, making sure that the fillings are wrapped inside the rice. This one you will need some practicing. I gathered you need to press the rice to "tighten" the rice, so as to form a nice rice ball that will hold properly. Practice makes perfect :)
4. You are done! you can leave the cling wrap on the rice ball until time to eat.

** You can also use a combination of rice vinegar, sugar and salt to season the rice, I do that for plain white rice.

A word of caution, please read up on lunch box food safety. The rice balls should be consumed within the same day that it is made. Discard any leftover at the end of the day.

Enjoy!

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