If you aren’t already rinsing rice before you cook it, it’s not too late to start.
Famed chef Masaharu Morimoto includes his recipe for perfect white rice in his new book, “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking” (Ecco, $45), as well as an easy nori-wrapped rice ball that will ease your craving for sushi without actually having to make it at home.
Washing off the excess starch makes for perfectly plump, springy grains that are blessedly free of mush and clumps, but don’t cheat and buy cheaper long-grain rice, he says. Short-grain rice — often labeled “sushi rice” — is essential, even though you’re not necessarily making sushi.
Onigiri Rice Balls
Go into any convenience store in Japan and you’ll see rows of the classic, portable and shockingly tasty Japanese snack called onigiri, triangular rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed and filled with delicious things like pickled plum or broiled salmon. The filling can be anything you desire, including last night’s leftover salmon. You can even roll the outsides in toasted sesame seeds, shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice powder) or furikake.
— Masaharu Morimoto
2 ¼ cups short-grain white rice (sushi rice)
¾ cup leftover salmon, chicken or vegetables, chopped
4 nori seaweed sheets, halved lengthwise
Put the rice in a large-mesh strainer set inside a large mixing bowl and add enough water to cover the rice. Use your hands to stir and agitate the rice to release the starch from the exterior of the grains. Empty the water, fill the bowl again, and repeat the process until the fresh water no longer becomes cloudy when you stir the rice.
Drain the rice in the strainer and shake well to help drain excess water. Let the rice sit in the strainer, stirring once or twice, until it’s more or less dry to the touch, 15 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the rice to the rice cooker, add 2 ¼ cups of fresh water, and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. Gently fluff the rice with a plastic or wooden rice paddle. Let the rice cool slightly, so you can handle it without burning your fingers.
Pour some salt in a small bowl. To make each ball, wet your hands slightly with water, dip two fingertips in the salt, and briefly rub your hands together to distribute the salt. Grab ½ cup clump of rice and spread it slightly in your palm to form a ¾-inch layer.
Make a slight indentation in the center and add about a generous tablespoon of the filling, pressing lightly to flatten it if necessary. Fold the rice around the filling to enclose it completely, using a little more rice if necessary. Use both hands to shape the rice into a rough ball, then firmly pack it to form a rough triangle that has about 3-inch sides and is about 1-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining rice and filling. (You’ll have about two cups leftover rice, which is perfect for a stir-fry the next day.)
Just before you eat the rice triangles, wrap them in the nori. Serve right away, while the nori is still slightly crisp. Makes about 8 balls.
— From “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking” by Masaharu Morimoto (Ecco, $45)