Balls!

13 Aug

Fits into hand with ease, pleasant shape of balls

Have you enjoyed balls, lately?

*****

What do you like to forking put in your mouth? How about some balls? Although they’re not something that comes to mind right away when I think of what to eat (most things I put in my mouth are longer than they are wide) I encourage you not to leave your balls out in the cold.

Let me introduce you to two of my favourite balls.

1. Octopus Balls – Takoyaki

A relative newbie to the Vancouver/Richmond night market scene (stalls have popped up over the past couple of years) takoyaki are balls of savoury dough, grilled on a special teppan of half-spheres. Batter, green onions and/or cabbage, and sometimes tenkasu (bits of fried tempura batter) and/or beni-shouga (red ginger) are poured onto the teppan, and a piece of octopus is plonked in the middle. Once mostly cooked, the half-moon is deftly turned in its place with a long skewer and fried into a spherical shape. Topped with a Worcestershire-based sauce (creatively named takoyaki sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, aonori (seaweed powder), and katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes), this Osaka treat is a big hit, as indicated by the huge line-ups at the night market stalls.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki!

Not had the chance to put these balls in your mouth yet? Try eating octopus balls in the Vancouver area at:

  • Zipang (3710 Main Street, between 21st and 22nd Avenues)
  • Richmond Night Market (12631 Vulcan Way)
  • Bakudanyaki: Named for their incredible size (Bakudan = explosion, or bomb) these baseball sized “explosion balls” are so potent, you need only one. (7100 Elmbridge Way, just off of the Gilbert Road bridge on the south side of the river)

Be careful not to burn your mouth – these balls are hot!

2. Rice Balls – Onigiri

The ideal way to use up the last of your rice, and the easiest meal to take for tomorrow’s lunch, onigiri are the perfect way to satisfy your hunger at mealtime or as a snack. Available in abundance in convenience stores in Japan, I can’t imagine why this treat hasn’t caught on in 7-11s across the globe. Tasty, healthy, and available with a variety of fillings, I would argue that onigiri, Japan’s sandwich, outshines the bologna tossed between two slices of white bread that most North American children call “lunch”.

Onigiri

Onigiri - a versatile ball

How to Make Onigiri (Rice Balls)

  1. Cook Japanese rice, using only white rice or a mixture of white and brown rice. (Onigiri requires the rice to stick to itself, so be sure to mix in at least 40% white rice to get this to work! Also, make sure you use Japanese rice – other types aren’t sticky enough.)
  2. Allow the rice to cool at least a little bit. As delicious as they are, onigiri are not worth losing the skin from the palms of your hands. Once lukewarm or cool, you can sprinkle in your favourite furikake (literally “shake and sprinkle”) seasoning (available at most asian supermarkets) leftover bits of flaked salmon or other fish, leftover edamame beans (minus the pods), or gomashio (a mixture of sesame seeds and coarse salt). Plain rice is fine, too.
  3. Shape the balls. Wet your hands and sprinkle them with some salt before scooping about one rice-bowls worth of rice into one hand. In the centre, spoon in a small dollop of the filling of your choice, such as a piece of leftover salmon, a chunk of tuna, a piece of daikon radish pickle, soft nori (seaweed) paste or an umeboshi (pickled sour plum). Shape the rice as you wish (triangles are most popular, followed by flattened circles, but try your hand at hearts and stars if you dare!) and wrap with a piece of crispy ajitsuke nori (seasoned, roasted seaweed) as enjoyed in western Japan’s Kansai region or yaki nori (dried plain seaweed sheets – used when making sushi) as they prefer is in the eastern Kanto region.
Konbini Onigiri

So convenient, onigiri is a Japanese convenience store staple

Onigiri holder

Hate squashed balls? Try an onigiri-holder!

Onigiri mascot

Already an expert onigiri-maker? Don't let it go to your head

Wanna try an onigiri before making it on your own? T&T Supermarket (179 Keefer Place in Vancouver, 21500 Gordon Way in Richmond, and 15277 100 Avenue in Surrey) and Konbiniya  (1238 Robson Street in Vancouver) sell pre-made onigiri. Check out their ingenious packaging, which keeps the nori fresh and crispy until the moment you eat it.

Let’s enjoying the balls together for two times of fun when next forking time!

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3 Responses to “Balls!”

  1. CC August 15, 2010 at 5:32 am #

    Mmm-mmm… I used to totally bum onigiri from my best friend in primary school, ’cause her mom made delectable ones with lots of black sesame seeds and smoky umeboshi centres . She used to only give me a few bites; never a whole one. Nostalgia!

    Thanks for the recipe suggestions! Where’s a good place to get ingredients in the Richmond/Vancouver area? I want to enjoying yummy balls soon!

  2. Janice August 16, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Thanks so much for writing about onigiri. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at it after I saw a Japanese mom pull some out for her kids. I think that it is the perfect food for outings with the kids. I went out to Daiso after seeing your blog and found a little kit. I’m so excited!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Rice Balls! Making Onigiri with Shinmai « Let's Forking! - November 2, 2010

    […] run-down on shinmai as well as a recipe for the delectable onigiri (rice ball). (For more on balls, click here for two of my […]

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