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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

October 31, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Halloween onigiri: the Great Pumpkin says “Hai!”

I’m not big on “cute” in the kitchen. Unless you count the adorable little lady apples I like to dunk in caramel to give to the neighbor kids on Halloween. But last week while we were out and about, Nate and I couldn’t help but admire these mini-pumpkin onigiri. We were so impressed by these holiday treats I begged the Japanese language teachers who’d made them for their recipe.

Japanese rice balls get the Halloween treatment. Love those snap-pea stems! [photo: Nancy Leson]

If you’re not familiar with onigiri, you haven’t spent enough time in our local Japanese restaurants (and if so, may I suggest you head over to Maneki?). While there are many ways to prepare and enjoy onigiri (check out this Q&A on the subject), I figured I’d get in the spirit of the day and — just for grins — share their recipe:

Mini-Pumpkin Onigiri

(courtesy of senseis Adria Katka and Yayoi Brown)

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked short-grain Japonica or sushi rice (makes 4 cups of cooked rice, enough for a platter full of jack o’ lanterns).

Orange food coloring (or a mix of red and yellow)

Salted water

Nori (sheets of dried seaweed), cut to desired shapes

Sugar snap peas, blanched and cut in half

Note: Japonica rice/sushi rice and nori may be found in the Asian/Ethnic foods aisle at area supermarkets and at most Asian markets, including Uwajimaya.

To prepare

Cook rice according to directions on package and/or rice cooker. New to rice-making? Follow the detailed instructions for Japanese-style plain rice offered here. Important: add the food coloring, drop by drop, to the water to achieve the desired color before adding the water to the rice.

Once completely cooked, stir the rice to loosen it, and allow it to cool for a few minutes so that you can work with it; you don’t want to burn your hands, but the rice should still be quite warm.

Prepare a large bowl of lukewarm water and add a teaspoon of salt. Dip your (cleaned) hands in this water in between making each onigiri to keep the rice from sticking to your hands.

Use your hand to scoop out rice and shape into a golf-ball-sized ball, applying enough pressure that the rice will stick together and not fall apart.

Decorate the onigiri with eyes and mouths cut from sheets of nori, and stems from blanched sugar snap peas (cut in half).

Once cool, cover onigiri with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Serve at room temperature the day they’re prepared, as refrigeration will make them harden and crumble.

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