We spent the last year in Princeton, NJ living in tiny Butler graduate school housing. The row-houses were small and old, and the kitchens were tiny, but we shared a lot of food with our neighbors. When the weather was warm, you'd find Aaron firing up his grill and everyone would bring their family favorites to share. One neighbor, Junko, would bring Japanese rice balls which she'd grill over the fire, basting with a tamari-based sauce. They were delicious!
I've since learned that these rice balls are called onigiri and they are a traditional picinic food in Japan. While there are many recipes online the ones I read seemed more complicated than the simple treasures Junko made.
Last night I tried my hand at recreating them. I cooked two cups of sushi rice in 3 cups of water. Then I used what I had around the house to make a teriyaki-ish sauce:
2/3 cup Nama Shoyu (an unpasturized, raw, cultured soy sauce)
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 Tablespoons organic sugar
1 ounce rice wine vinegar
I simmered this mixture until it had reduced by about half.
When the rice was done, I donned latex gloves, because the little I have read about rice balls said they had to be worked while hot. I scooped about 1/3 cup of rice onto a plate and placed 1/4 t. of brown rice miso in the center. Then I started forming the balls with my hands.
The rice seems to like a lot of "hand-holding." As you squish it together, the grains loose their individuality and "become" the ball. The traditional shape for rice balls is a triangle, so I shaped it with my thumbs and index fingers, and placed it on a plate, covering with plastic-wrap to keep it from drying out. The mixture made 1 dozen.
I made the balls in the afternoon, and kept them covered on the counter until we were ready to grill several hours later.
When the grill was hot, I placed the balls on the grill and basted the top side with the sauce. After about 10 minutes (or when the grill lines were clear on the first side) I turned them over with a spatula, and basted the already grilled side. 10 more minutes or so, and they were done.
It worked beautifully. It's an easy treat that would go great with grilled vegetables, teriyaki tofu or an edamame salad.
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