Monday, July 6, 2015

Japanese Eats with Inari Zushi and Deep-Fried Chicken Karaage...

Women's FIFA Finals yesterday and we wanted to cheer our team Japan on with dinner at my place with none other than Japanese eats. Two menu ideas I've always wanted my Japanese sister-in-law to teach me to make were Inari Zushi and her version of Chicken Karaage. This was the perfect occasion to do it! 

Inari Zushi is not your accustomed sushi. These are fried tofu pouches, that are stuffed with sushi rice and other vegetable filling-- perfect for vegetarians. This is a nice alternative to onigiri Japanese rice balls wrapped with nori.

Inari Zushi
Makes 14-16 pouches

2 cups short-grained raw rice

2 Tbsp. sake
1 carrot, finely minced
1 burdock, finely minced (do not peel skin away as their a lot of nutrition; just wipe dirt under running water)
konnyaku (devil's tongue), minced (optional)
1 Tbsp. sake
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. mirin

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (or warm 1/4 cup rice vinegar to dissolve 2 Tbsp. sugar) 
1 package aburage (fried tofu skin) (containing 8 pieces each)
1 Tbsp. toasted regular of black sesames

Cook rice according to instructions with 2 Tbsp. sake to replace water needed to cook. Combine the sake, sugar, soy sauce and mirin in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and simmer until the sauce evaporates about five minutes.

Remove cooked rice into a large bowl. Sprinkle the vinegar dressing all over the rice; using sideway cutting strokes toss the rice (this will prevent it from getting mushy) as it cools. If you have a fan that will help the cooling faster. Add the vegetables and sesame seeds, and mix into the rice.

Cut the aburage in half horizontally, and carefully separate the sides of the cut section with your fingers to form a pouch. TIP: If the brand you are using has too much excess oil, remove the excess oil by placing the aburage into a large heat-proof bowl in the sink and pour boiling water over them, stirring to expose all pieces; drain into a colander, rinse with cold water and gently squeeze out the water.

Gently squeeze out the liquid from a piece of aburage; scoop up a portion of rice about the size of an egg in one hand, and stuff it into the aburage pouch. Fold over the cut ends, press lightly to shape, and place cut side down on a serving dish.

Pillowy and delicious-- my kids love these hand-held rice balls; they make a great hearty snack!

Chicken karaage is gaining popularity in the western world especially with all the izakaya Japanese pubs popping up all over-- it's such an awesome bite-sized popper to serve with a mug of beer. The word "kara" has Chinese origins and "age" means deep-fried. Crispy on the outside with a gingery flavour and succulent on the inside, this is a must. Just a few simple ingredients needed to make your own at home-- give it a try!

Deep-Fried Chicken Karaage
Makes 4 to 6 servings as an appetizer

2 pieces (~300 g) boneless chicken thighs
1 piece fresh ginger, minced or grated (1 to 1-1/2 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. sake
1-1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
~1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch, (I prefer potato starch to yield lighter, crispier results)
peanut oil or other vegetable oil for deep frying
a few drops sesame oil (optional for extra flavour)

Cut up the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. You can take off the skin if you like, though it does make the chicken crispier.

Put the chicken pieces in a bowl. Add the grated ginger, sake and soy sauce; mix well. Let marinate for 30 minutes is ideal, otherwise the salt in the soy sauce draws out too much moisture from the chicken.

Heat the oil; test with a single piece of chicken or a small piece of skin. Pat the chicken pieces dry and toss enough potato/cornstarch into the marinated chicken so that each piece is completely coated. Fry the chicken pieces in batches until a deep golden brown. Drain well - a wire rack is best for this, but paper towels work too.

Serve with lemon wedges, Japanese kewpie mayo and/or ponzu sauce.

Other items on the menu were Japanese gyoza dumplings-- filled with ground pork, cabbage, ginger, green onions and garlic. Click here for a complete step-by-step on how to make and wrap dumplings. 

Everyone pitches in! Even my 7-year old nephew who is a dumpling wrapping pro!

Salmon sashimi and Korean Chap Chae Noodles (I know it's not Japanese) but the dish really rounded out the spread. And of course we need Japanese beer!!!

Korean Chap Chae Noodles

It was a disappointing lost to USA, but these American girls played amazingly. Congrats to both teams! Here's to the next FIFA game in 2019! BANZAI!


  1. This is a terrific looking meal. I have not tried much Japanese style food but you are inspiring me.

    The Old Fat Guy

  2. Thank you David :) for your comment. I hope you do get inspired... there are so many simple home-style Japanese dishes that people don't know about.... click on Japanese in labels to get more ideas. Cheers!