The Book Bender

Pairing literature with food and drink

Inarizushi: Party food shaped like a football

Inarizushi for the new year

Inarizushi comes from humble beginnings: rice seasoned with vinegar and wrapped in deep-fried tofu. It’s easy to make, and easy to eat. And for the last few weeks of the NFL season, this is a fun football-shaped food that’s deep fried and healthy. Who knew that existed?

This is the cheater version of this recipe. You can start closer to scratch and buy these tofu pouches unseasoned, but the seasoned ones — already flavored with soy sauce and sweet rice wine — let you skip a few steps.

This is the brand I used for the tofu wrappers. Look for something labeled "inariage" or "aburaage."

It’s a dish that you can make with guests, too, since it’s impossible to ruin. The only way to make a mess is if you’re using your hands to fill the pouch instead of a spoon.

Caught red-handed. I was more civil with the other ones and used a spoon to fill the pouches with rice.

The inarizushi went to a New Year’s Day party, where it got lost in the crowd of amazing food. It’s hard to compete with Thai chicken slathered in peanut butter sauce and the most fantastic green curry I’ve ever had. But, the platter left the party empty, which is always a good sign.

New Year's Day spread

Since it’s New Year’s, there’s always the mile-long list of resolutions I’ve made, the majority of which I’ll break in the next few weeks. I feasted like a royal today, so you can tell that any food resolution is out the window starts tomorrow. But, here’s a list of a few that have risen to the top and I’ll do my best to keep:

1. Finding time for hobbies that get pushed aside too easily: skiing, hiking, taking walks to admire houses and gardens and to judge ugly apartment buildings.

2. This year, I want to make pasta. From scratch. I’d really love to justify why I’ve had a jar of semolina flour the past year.

3. I need to be more vigilant over my electronic habits. I liked this Huffington Post list on five social media New Year’s resolutions, especially the first one on changing passwords regularly. And when I feel too lazy to remember a new passcode every few months, I will reread this James Fallows’ piece in The Atlantic about his wife’s Gmail account being hacked. It’s fantastic. And chilling.

Inarizushi

You can increase the amount of vinegar to 2/3 cup if you prefer a stronger flavor. There is a difference between rice vinegar and seasoned rice vinegar; both are usually available in the Asian section of most grocery stores. You’ll probably need to make a trip to an Asian specialty store to find the tofu pouches. I bought mine at Uwajimaya in Seattle.

Note: The seasoned tofu pouches may not be vegetarian if they contain fish stock (called dashi in Japanese). If you are vegetarian, do check the ingredient label.

  • 16 seasoned deep-fried tofu pouches (also known as aburaage)
  • 2 cups short-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1. Cook the rice in a rice cooker or on the stove. With short-grain white rice, I use a ratio of 1 part uncooked white rice to 1.5 parts water. For 16 tofu wrappers, I used 2 cups of rice and 3 cups of water.

2. Once the rice has finished cooking, spread the hot rice across a large plate to maximize surface area so it can cool off quickly. I have always been instructed not to push the rice around side to side, but to to make vertical cuts with the rice paddle to allow the steam to escape without squishing the rice. Pour the seasoned rice vinegar evenly over the rice. Allow to cool at least 10-15 minutes.

3. While the rice is cooling, heat a pot of water with a few cups of water until simmering. Add the vacuum-sealed packages of the tofu wrapper into the pot and turn off the heat. Let them sit in the warm water for a few minutes so the tofu wrappers warm inside their package. (These directions were particular to the brand I bought, so you could skip this step if you want. I would definitely skip this step if you bought a canned version instead of a vacuum-sealed version.)

4. Open the packages of tofu pouches and their liquids into a plate and begin stuffing the pouches with the rice. The pouches, although fairly sturdy, can tear if you’re not careful. Fill the pouches almost entirely, so they “inflate” to full size. It’s an imperfect science; don’t fret about understuffing or overstuffing.

5. Serve on a plate with the seam side down. You can serve immediately, although the flavor improves over the hour as the tofu pouch flavors the rice.

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