Cook Japanese rice the usual way (with a rice cooker or on the stovetop), transfer to a shallow bowl and season a la sushi rice. Stir in chopped rehydrated wakame, crispy bacon and toasted sesame seeds, season with a little salt. Crispy bacon, wakame and sesame onigiri is something you’ll want to make again and again.
Yes, it’s terrific. The wakame gives off a smell and taste of the sea while the salty bacon adds just enough fat to prevent the dish from having that dry mouth feel. The sesame seeds and oil provide a bold nutty aroma and flavor. The rice vinegar rounds off all the flavors in the dish.
Where did I get the inspiration? From NHK World. I love how the cooks there give Japanese dishes modern touches—unlike others (including bloggers) who are more concerned with “authenticity”. The recipes at NHK World are a lovely mix of traditional and modern, and the results are often fantastic. This crispy bacon, wakame and sesame onigiri is one of those that qualifies as fantastic.
Of course, I gave the dish my own spin. Seasoning the rice a la sushi, with rice vinegar and a dash of sesame seed oil, was my idea. So was the addition of toasted sesame seeds. The latter was an attempt to make good use of leftover toasted sesame seeds from the previous day’s mung bean sprouts and spinach salad. Everything just blended together perfectly.
And just how delectable was this devilishly good-looking rice dish? So good that Speedy couldn’t wait for Alex to finish forming the mixed rice into bowls.
HE. COULDN’T. WAIT. He finished a plate of the rice with a fried egg on top while Alex was still dutifully making onigiri. Yep, this is a mommy-and-me dish. I cooked and seasoned the rice, and prepared the wakame; Alex cooked the bacon and did the shaping.
How complicated is the recipe? Not complicated at all. Alex and I made the dish together not because it’s too hard for one person to do but because, well, she likes hanging out in the kitchen and helping when it’s my turn to cook. Just cook the rice as you usually do—but do use Japanese rice or some other medium-grain rice that is sticky enough. Not glutinous rice, not long-grain rice, but medium-grain rice. While waiting for the rice to cook, soak the wakame in hot water then throw the bacon into the pan. By the time the rice is done, the rest of the ingredients will be ready to be mixed in.
But why Japanese rice or some other medium-grain rice? Because it’s a Japanese dish so Japanese rice has to go in it? No. NO. If you haven’t discovered it yet, the starchiness of rice is inversely proportional with the length of the grain. Put another way, the longer the rice grain, the less starchy it is.
Making onigiri requires a variety of rice that is just sticky enough to be formed into balls (or triangles or whatever shape you fancy) but not so starchy that the grains are no longer separable from each other after cooking. Japanese rice and some other medium-grain rice varieties have that characteristic.
That said, here’s the recipe.
Rinse the rice several times until the water runs clear. Drain. Place in the rice cooker and pour in three cups of water. Cook.
While the rice cooks, place the dried wakame in a bowl and pour in enough hot water to cover.
Chop the bacon and cook in an oil-free frying pan until browned and lightly crisp. Drain (save the bacon fat for future use).
When the rice is done, transfer to a shallow bowl and mix lightly to separate the grains. Pour in the rice vinegar and sesame seed oil. Stir to blend.
Drain the wakame and squeeze out excess water. Finely chop.
Add the bacon, chopped wakame and sesame seeds to the rice. Mix to combine. Taste. Add salt, if needed, and mix again.
Form into balls or triangles to make onigiri.
Serve your crispy bacon, wakame and sesame onigiri as a side dish to meat, seafood or vegetable main dish.