Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bento #3: Inarizushi, konnyaku with garlic, and steamed veggies

Bento #3: Inarizushi with brown and wild rice with dashi soaked carrot and hijiku filling, Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers, cherry and pear tomatoes, and steamed vegetables (broccoli, napa cabbage, and carrot - fridge clean out vegetables or vegetables that needed to be used or thrown out).

I had no idea what inarizushi was, so I did some digging.

"Inarizushi (稲荷寿司) is a pouch of fried tofu typically filled with sushi rice alone. It is named after the Shinto god Inari, who is believed to have a fondness for fried tofu. The pouch is normally fashioned as deep-fried tofu (油揚げ, abura age). Regional variations include pouches made of a thin omelette (帛紗寿司, fukusa-zushi, or 茶巾寿司, chakin-zushi). It should not be confused with inari maki, which is a roll filled with flavored fried tofu.
A version of inarizushi that includes green beans, carrots, and gobo along with rice, wrapped in a triangular aburage (fried tofu) piece, is a Hawaiian specialty, where it is called cone sushi and is often sold in okazu-ya (Japanese delis) and as a component of bento boxes." (via Wikipedia)
As a sushi lover, I had to try making it!

I love sushi, but I am not a fan of boring white rice. No amount of sugar and vinegar to make it into sushi white rice is going to change that for me. Yes it is fine if it is a layer on my sushi roll, but the entire filling? That did not excite me (when I make sushi at home, I always make my sushi rice out of short grain brown rice). So I thought I might play around with the rice filling to make it more robust. I made some short grain brown rice, it is more nutritious than white (has a somewhat nutty taste), and it is not bleached. I added a bit of cooked wild rice. I live in Minnesota and have access to tons of it at a reasonable price compared to other regions of the US. Then I added about 1/4 cup of a sushi rice filler I found online to cut down on calories, and it is delicious to boot. It consists of carrot, hijiki (a seaweed) and shitake and oyster mushrooms. It is based off a recipe I found on Just Bento, however I used dried and reconstituted shitake and oyster mushrooms that I reconstituted in the dashi broth. I used a regular dashi broth, not the vegetarian dashi. If you do not know what dashi is, it is a big part of making a lot of Japanese foods.

"The most common form of dashi is a simple broth or fish stock made by heating water containing kombu (edible kelp) and kezurikatsuo (shavings of katsuobushi - preserved, fermented bonito) to near-boiling, then straining the resultant liquid. The element of umami, considered one of the five basic tastes in Japan, is introduced into dashi from the use of katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is especially high in sodium inosinate, which is identified as one source of umami." (via Wikipedia)

Smells like the yummy smoked fish I grew up with. I shredded one carrot and sautéed it in sesame oil. Then I added about a handful and a half of the hijiki to the pan and poured the dashi over it until it was covered with about 1.5 inches of broth after it reconstituted the hijiki. I diced up the reconstituted mushrooms, threw those in the skillet and cooked uncovered until there was hardly any broth left (it took quite some time, about 45 min, but trust me it was worth it!).  I then added the soy sauce and mirin. I used sugar in the raw, it is less processed and quite frankly, bleached and over processed foods now give me the willies since I did some research after watching Hungry for a Change (which I highly recommend watching).I added 1/4 cup of it to my 3 cups of brown sushi and wild rice. It looked like this after mixing in the packet of "seasoning" that came in my package of inari-age. It made more than enough, actually made enough for two packages of inari age.

And here is the inari age I used.  I picked mine up at United Noodles in Minneapolis Minnesota.
Here is the back of the package for nutritional info.
They looked like this after filling the tofu skins.
Soon I shall look into making my own inari age to cut down on ingredients that I do not know, and ingredients I can not pronounce. I like to know what I am putting in my mouth. It is just a quirk I have.

I also had to make konnyaku after reading about it. It was so mysterious!

"In Japanese cuisine, konjac (konnyaku) appears in dishes such as oden. It is typically mottled grey and firmer in consistency than most gelatins. It has very little taste; the common variety tastes vaguely like salt. It is valued more for its texture than flavor." (via Wikipedia)

For more on this substance please read this article on the Just Hungry website.

I made the recipe I found on Just Hungry for Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers.

I used Southwestern Chipotle Mrs Dash instead of the peppers, and added a few cherry and pear tomatoes on the side.
To be honest, the texture was a little off putting to me, kind of like super extra firm tofu jello, and it really did not have much of its own taste. I think I was expecting something like octopus, and it wasn't. Next time I use it (I have a package of the white konnyaku) I want to make it with some ginger green beans, so it is not the main focus. I am not saying I did not like it, it grew on me, it just may not be every ones cup of tea. Here is the package of white konnyaku #the picture above was the grey variety made by the same company).
I would use it again, just not quite so much.

Lastly since it was Sunday, I did a fridge clean out of vegetables that will go bad if not used. I had some broccoli that was turning yellow, and some napa cabbage that would be tossed out in the next 3 days if not used now. I added some grated carrot and steamed the lot. I tossed it with a bit of parmesan before eating. That made the bottom of my bento. I make vegetables my main source of intake because it does not contain tons of carbs like rice that is traditionally used for a bento. More diabetic and diet friendly that way. I have lost 10 pounds in the past 2 months of only changing my lunches to a vegetable based bento. I call that a win!

So the bottom was the steamed vegetables and parmesan (not in picture).
Top layer was the konnyaku and tomatoes container, and 3 inarizushi with the mixed grain filling.
And that is it! Delicious!

If you would like to know what I used for the box, I used Medport's L.O.T.G. (also called Fit & Fresh) lunch set with removable ice pack.
(the quarter is for a size reference)
I will be reviewing this product for my first product review, due to be posted on December 9, 2012. Next Sunday (November 11,2012) I will be posting my product review policies (if my editor, the distinguished B, my main squeeze and scource of all things spelling and grammer related, finishes checking it for me).


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