New Ideas in Onigiri, Volume 1: Peanut-butter what?

Onigiri.  That’s Japanese for rice-ball.  Don’t know if you have them there in the States (while I was there I never really looked for them), but here in Japan rice-balls are the go-to food for any occasion.  They are pretty much as the name implies–a ball of rice.  Often you will find something stuffed in the middle of the rice-ball, like cooked salmon or tuna-mayo or seaweed or pickled-plum.  Or sometimes they just come with nothing in the middle but are made of rice-and-something.  I wouldn’t say they’re super delicious, but I eat them a few days a week and I like the various tasty centers you can find.

Which leads me into this first post in what I hope will be a long series of posts over the course of this blog’s life:  new tasty centers for Onigiri.  With Volume 1 we start with the staple of my (and most college kids out there) diet, peanut-butter.  Oh, delicious peanut-butter, let me count the ways I enjoy thee…  One, on a sandwich with jelly or honey or bananas.  Two…er…sometimes with celery.  Three?  Pretty much just sandwiches, but I still love you.  So let’s try and get you into something new, something exotic, like sticky Japanese rice!

And the peanut-butter of choice goes to the only choice for peanut-butter at my local grocery store:  Meidi-ya’s (aptly named) Peanut Butter, Crunchy style.

How did this work?  Well, first I scooped out some rice from the cooker.  For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese-style rice, it’s really really sticky.  If you touch it with your hands it sticks and won’t come off unless you rinse with water or eat the rice right off your fingers.  I have seen sushi chefs lightly dip their fingers in water while making sushi, so I tried this to make my first rice ball.  I took a bit of rice and made a half ball shape and then took a dollop of peanut-butter and stuck  it in the middle.  Then I added some more rice and formed it into a ball.  Here’s the final product.

I made two more like this.

The taste?  At first, the taste was rather blah.  But by the time I got to the third one I didn’t want any more.  I can’t really explain why.  I thought, before trying this, that it would be pretty good.  In my mind bread and rice occupy the same taste area–kinda bland, but really good when mixed with other more tasty foods.  I know, I know.  Bread comes in many many different varieties, tastes, and textures.  But for my peanut-butter sandwiches, I use the boringest white bread from the supermarket.  Rice too, I know, comes in many different varieties, tastes, and textures.  Still, white Japanese rice (koshihikari, koshiibuki, whatever) occupies a part of my thinking that says “mix with tastier stuff.”  Same with bread.  I figured, why wouldn’t one example of “tastier stuff” that goes well with bread not go well with rice?

Well, it doesn’t.  Trust me.  I’m not a foodie.  I don’t read about food, so I don’t know how to write about food.  The best I can come up with is that my mind was understanding my taste buds as saying “yeah, they taste good separately, but please don’t put them together like this again.”  That’s pretty much all I can come up with without telling you to give it a try yourself.

In the end, I don’t think I’ll be making this one again.  I will continue to eat peanut-butter.  I will continue to eat rice.  I will not eat them together.

Next up, for New Ideas in Onigiri will be honey.

Dog days of Summer

Well, it seems that my Muse is a part-time worker.  I’m sorry for the hiatus, but I just couldn’t get motivated to write about much this past week or two.  Mostly it’s because I feel like I’ve exhausted the “weeds” theme and on a daily basis that is all I’m doing–cutting weeds.

However, there have been a couple days where we did something a little bit different, so let’s talk about those!  About a week and a half ago we took a couple of days and worked cutting bamboo.  In a couple weeks there is this 3-day concert happening here on Sado called The Earth Celebration.  All three days there is a Harbor Market and we’ll be selling our rice and making onigiri.  Most sellers in the market use those plastic/metal portable booths for their store.  But last year a friend of mine here on Sado made a group of booths out of bamboo, and we decided to do it again this year.  So, for two days we cut down bamboo and measured and cut enough pieces to make a line of 4 booths.

The guy you see in the yellow in the above picture is named Enrique.  He lives here on Sado and is a bamboo artist (and Capoeira teacher).  He’s the mastermind behind this project, and if you come to the EC, be sure to check out his booth where you can buy some of his bamboo crafts.

The other interesting thing that we did recently is head over to mainland Niigata to sell our rice at a local festival.  A couple months ago a store owner approached Nabe about selling Daruma An rice at their store, Najira, which sells Niigata brand sakes and rice.  So the owners called Nabe up a couple weeks ago and asked if we’d like to come over for a local festival in the town where their store is and sell our rice in person.  Um…yes, please.  So we did.  We brought over about 20 kilos of rice in 2 kilo bags and then cooked up a few cups of rice to give out to passers-by as samples.  Sold about 3 bags, gave out a bunch of fliers, and met a lot of nice folks.  Good times.

We had a slide-show running on the computer with pictures from when we planted the organic fields and were also selling some of Enrique’s bamboo crafts as well.  You’ll notice my nice sign advertising our Twitter feed…not a single person looked at it.  I read that Twitter was becoming popular over here, but I guess not in Niigata.  One of my wife’s friends stopped by to buy some rice and pose for a picture (hello, Keiko, if you’re reading this!):

So, other than the weeding, that is what I’ve been up to the past couple of weeks.  And, yes, I know I’m still due a post about peanut-butter onigiri.  I haven’t forgot.  I will do it.  I swear.