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Posted on: January 28, 2012 12:28 pm by small image

Over the past few months I’ve been trying my hand at some Japanese dishes, inspired by all the tasty-looking foods in anime and manga. Don’t those meals always look a little too perfect, though? I guess those characters have had a lot of practice.

Onigiri, AKA the humble rice ball, is generally rice packed into a triangular shape and wrapped in a nori seaweed sheet. These rice balls often have some kind of filling (such as some kind of salted fish product), though you can put whatever you want in them–much like sandwiches. The kind of rice I’ve used is called Nishiki sushi rice, which sticks together when cooked (my apartment has a rice cooker, which is super-convenient). A filling I’ve liked to make is canned chicken mixed with teriyaki sauce and some chopped green onions. Also, for a dessert onigiri, cherries are pretty tasty. To keep my hands from burning from the rice, and to make the onigiri into a perfect shape, I use plastic molds. The rice balls I’ve made are best when eaten the day they’re made, as they tend to crumble after a day or two in the fridge. (I suppose this can be avoided if you use fillings that act as natural preservatives.) I haven’t tried many other fillings though–perhaps I should experiment more??

Perhaps my favorite dish I’ve tried out is omelette rice (AKA omuraisu), which is a really tasty and filling omelet. Perhaps it’s not really traditional Japanese food, but it’s in lots of anime. I go by this online recipe, and use this accompanying recipe for the filling. It’s an omelet with rice, chicken, vegetables, and ketchup. The ketchup surprisingly works really well with this–and of course, if you’re talented enough you can write your name on the omelet. My biggest difficulty with omuraisu is getting it to fold into that perfect shape (like an American football) that they all pull off so well in anime. >_> Oh well, it tastes fine just the same.

The Japanese bento is a box lunch, and can include whatever you want in it. But part of the fun is turning your lunch into a work of art! Or at the very least, packing all these different foods in a neat, tidy way in a plastic container. Characters in anime and manga often go all-out with their bento, especially when they’re making it for their loved ones! (Or if the character’s just a master, like Asuka from the manga Otomen.) One kind of bento I tried recently was a picture that was vaguely like a beach(?), with a scrambled egg sky, ground pork earth, a cucumber sun, and some palm trees made with carrots and portions of pineapple rings. And there were celery pieces as well… I guess those were birds or something. But the point is you should experiment with different foods and see if you can find good ways to pack things together. And if you search online, you can find lots of more traditional Japanese bento… These will often include rice, some kind of fish, and some kind of pickled vegetable. You can find sushi or onigiri in a bento as well, along with other Japanese dishes.

I’ve used a (pretty silly, but innocuous) book called The Manga Cookbook to try a number of other simple recipes, such as oshinko (composed of cabbage, cucumbers, and lemon juice), which works as a nice side… I’d like to work my way up to other items in the book as well, such as miso soup, okonomiyaki, and three-color dango. Perhaps I’ll write another post once I’ve tried my hand at those. And perhaps some sushi too? I would probably want one of those wooden rollers for that though. I’ve never had sushi much, since it’s pretty pricey, but it certainly makes a nice meal.

Have any of you ever tried making any Japanese dishes? Feel free to offer suggestions for other good meals, especially if they’re not too difficult…