04 October 2011

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To say I have an affinity to carbohydrates is to put the matter lightly. Most of what I post here has to do with grains in one form or another, usually as bread or baked sweets. We've already seen a baking round-up, waffle brunch, cornbread...and that's just this year's Vegan MoFo posts. There is plenty more carbohydrate fixation to be found on this blog, which is quite a redundant thing to say.

Today's snack post only continues the carb-devouring spree, with a spotlight on rice. Steamed white rice--calrose, specifically--was the standard side to nearly every family meal during my childhood. It's certainly a result of cultural influence; Hawaiian locals seem to like a scoop of rice with everything, as do my Filipino family and in-laws. The humble grain is firmly embedded in my diet. It continues to be the ultimate kitchen staple around here.

Given the ubiquitous nature of white rice in Hawaiian cuisine, it's little surprise that it often figures into all types of meals in some way, from breakfast to dessert. Even snack time might involve sweetened puffed rice or mochi. One snack I enjoyed as a kid was musubi. It is essentially a variation on Japanese onigiri, which is at its most basic just pressed, cooked rice wrapped in nori. Back in my pre-vegan days, my favorite form of musubi was perhaps the most well-known: spam musubi. Along with rice, there was quite a bit of that infamous meat-from-a-can on my plate as a kid. Spam with rice was a classic combo, but somehow, adding nori to the mix made it something I truly worth savoring, even to my picky tastebuds.

Trying to find a good vegan substitute for that mystery meat from a can has so far been only mildly successful. Attempts at homemade vegan spam have yielded average results at best--flavorful, yes, but not quite the right flavor. Of course, when it comes to making vegan musubi, I could just use whatever plant-based protein I like, but I'm too intent on recreating my childhood favorite to give up the task that easily. In the meantime, I usually default to some form of tofu as the spam stand-in. I went the mock-ham route with my latest effort, simmering slabs of firm tofu (pressed and frozen, then thawed) in a smoky, spiced tomato broth. It definitely has a flavor more reminiscent of ham than anything else, which was fine for this application. The very plain rice and seaweed paired nicely with the savory addition of the tofu. I may try sweet-and-sour, teriyaki, and dengaku variations in the future.

*UPDATE 10/10/11: I posted a tutorial for making tofu musubi. You can find it here.
Traditional rectangular form, thanks to my ancient little musubi press (like this one).
Version with hand-molded rice, which held up relatively neatly.
I also made some inarizushi, or what my family always refers to plainly as inari. Seasoned rice in sweet-and-savory aburaage was another favorite snack when I was a kid. They're often already vegan as well, although sometimes honey and bonito-flavored dashi may be used when simmering the tofu pockets. Hawaii-style inari is also known as "cone sushi," for the way the fried tofu is cut in half diagonally to form triangular pockets. The seasoned rice may be left as is, but another common way to prepare it is to mix in finely shredded carrot and toasted sesame seeds. I made a batch with the latter, for added color, texture, and flavor.

6 comments:

  1. Teresa Affectioknit10/4/11, 12:46 PM

    That looks so delicious!

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  2. I just had aburaage for the first time last week & I loved it! I'd love to see a post on how to make it (hint hint). 

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  3. veganinbrighton10/4/11, 1:44 PM

    I really really love carbs too, like, a lot! Your sushi looks so perfect.

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  4. Must...have...sushi.

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  5. Love this! Brings back memories of eating musubi on the beach in Hawaii.

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  6. What is the recipe for the marinated tofu, as well as any special tips and tricks for making the rice stick together? Loving the idea of being able to have something like spam musubi again, was one of my all-time favorite snacks before going vegan! 

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)