Oct 26, 2021
RESTAURANTS OFTEN GIVE A NOD to the natural environment in their dishes but few go as far as chef Yoshihiro Narisawa does when it comes to embodying local flora on each plate. His innovative cuisine manifested in dishes like Soil Soup, which uses earth in the cooking process, and Bread of the Forest, made with natural yeast from a protected mountain range, demonstrate his deep love for Japan’s natural terrain.
Safe to say it’s that passion that resulted in the chef’s namesake restaurant, Narisawa, scoring a Michelin star in Tokyo’s inaugural guide back in 2007. The popular restaurant has held two Michelin stars for more than a decade, and has a green star for its sustainability ethos. The fine-dining destination also consistently lands on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (it currently sits at spot No. 22).
Chef Narisawa chose to share a recipe for one of Japan’s most ubiquitous dishes, onigiri (rice ball). “It’s a simple yet significant comfort food,” he told me. “We usually make onigiri for loved ones and most people in Japan have fond childhood memories of their mother preparing one for their lunch or as a snack.”
“I think onigiri is the perfect symbol of love and comfort,” he added.
Onigiri with Homemade Chirimen-Sansho, Nanko-Ume Plum from Kishu, and Okaka Dried Bonito Flakes from Makurazaki
Chirimen-Sansho (Sardines with peppercorn)
100g Chirimenjako (dried baby sardines)
4 tbsp Misansho (green Japanese peppercorn)
30ml Mirin (rice cooking wine)
20g Usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce
5g Koikuchi (dark) soy sauce
A proper quantity of red-perilla powder
Put sake and mirin in a pot, heat it to remove the alcohol. Boil it further to reduce it to half the quantity.
Add sugar, soy sauce and chirimenjako.
Continue to boil down with chirimenjako.
When the liquid evaporates, mix the chopped Japanese pepper and red-perilla powder.
Okaka (Japanese seasoning)
Pickled Nanko-ume plum
Dried bonito flakes
Usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce
Remove the seeds from the pickled plums and strain them. Rub the dried bonito flakes and plums together with both hands.
Put mirin in a pot and heat it to remove alcohol and boil to half quantity. Add the mirin and soy sauce to plum and bonito flakes and adjust to taste.
Rinse the rice with plenty of water, by mixing gently by hand. Use a colander to drain water immediately, and rinse the rice in the same way three times. Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Put the rice in a colander and remove water.
Combine 1L water and rice in a pot and put it on the stovetop. Keep mixing the pot till the water is boiled. When it’s boiling, close the pot’s lid and heat on medium heat for 12 minutes.
Turn off the fire and leave the pot for 10 minutes to steam the rice.
Add Chirimen-Sansho to the cooked rice, and mix well.
Wet your palms with water and put a very small amount of salt on your palm.
Spread the rice ball out on your palm and put the okaka in the middle. Press the rice gently into a triangle shape.
Wrap onigiri with seaweed, if you have it.
Note: While the ingredients in this onigiri recipe above are standard in Japan, chef Narisawa suggests that if you can’t find something, just replace with any similar favorite foods from your local area.
If you enjoyed this onigiri recipe by chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, check out the rest of our T+L Michelin Masters series.