Inari is sushi, but not as you know it. Variously called Inari, Oinari-san, or Inarizushi, it’s made by filling Abraage pockets with Sushi-rice. As I wrote some time ago, in Japan people don’t really make sushi at home very often (see: Fight the Sushi Monoculture), however Inari is the exception. This is not a fancy dish; it’s a popular food you make and eat at home.
The other day when I was talking with my mother on the phone, she told that she made Inari for dinner. This made me all nostalgic and I got inspired to make Inari, too.
Tradition says that the name inari came from a Japanese shinto divinity that is often associated with a fox. The favorite food of this sacred fox was Aburaage. Sacred foxes or no, historic documents show Inari was already a popular form of sushi in the mid-1800s.
Butajiru is basically miso soup, but with one special ingredient: pork. The key thing here, though, is to go beyond just pork and add a lot of vegetables: enough to take it up a notch from the light broth you associate with Miso soup and turn it into the centerpiece of a meal.
What’s great about butajiru is that, once you chop all those vegetables, you don’t have to work a lot to make a really substantial meal. White rice, Butajiru and one small side dish (if you like) would make a perfect, well-balanced meal. So when cook is feeling a bit lazy, it’s a great solution: an easy warming dish for a cold winter day.
Because one thing I guarantee: Butajiru warms you up!
Lets be clear: standard Japanese rice is plain. No flavorings, no spices, no salt, no nothing. Just rice, water, heat and time. Older people in Japan – and even a good number of younger people – eat this kind of plain white rice three times a day. It’s like bread for Western people: there at every meal.
So that’s the standard thing. But once every great while mom gets frisky and decides to do something different with rice. Enter takikomi-gohan: a flavored rice that can serve as a main course. Takikomi-gohan can be eaten hot or cold, and it’s a popular lunch-box item. We don’t make this kind of rice every day. We don’t even make it often. But every once in a while, it really hits the spot.