Chimaki (Japanese Rice Dumplings)

chimaki02

Girls’ Day (known as Hinamatsuri in Japan) is a day set aside to celebrate girls every March 3 in Japan.  The holiday involves displaying dolls, which people used to think could contain bad spirits.  An ancient Japanese custom was to float straw dolls down a river on a boat to the sea, taking the bad spirits with them.  Food associated with Girl’s Day include colored, sweet bite-sized rice crackers (hina-arare), colored diamond-shaped rice cakes (hishimochi), a clear broth clam soup (ushiojiru), and chirashizushi, a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of raw fish and vegetables.

None of these options sounded particularly interesting to make at home, so I looked to Children’s Day for inspiration.  It seems fitting since Boys’ Day was turned into Children’s Day to celebrate the happiness of all children rather than just a male celebration.  Children’s Day is not until May 5th, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy making a variation of a rice dumpling called chimaki.  Chimaki is usually sweet and wrapped in an oak, but its roots are thought to be in the savory Chinese zongzi, a glutinous rice ball stuff with fillings like pork, chicken, peanuts, and char siu (Chinese barbecued pork).  I kept my recipe simple with shiitake mushrooms and a carrot (purple carrot in photo) with soy sauce and mirin for added flavor.

Chimaki (Yield: 6-8 rice dumplings)

Ingredients:

2 cups of sweet short grain rice
1T vegetable oil
1 carrot, penny sliced (optional: cut decoratively like flowers)
1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
2T soy sauce
2 cups chicken stock
2T mirin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6-8 taro leaves (substitute bamboo or banana leaves)

Directions:

  1. Prepare shitake mushrooms as instructed on package.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in large pot or saucepan.  Add carrot and hydrated shiitake mushrooms.  Stir fry for 2 minutes
  3. Add rice, soy sauce, mirin, and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until liquid just absorbed.
  4. Remove from heat and cool. When cool enough to handle, shape into triangles, and wrap in taro leaves.Tie with string or wrap in foil.
  5. Place wrapped dumplings in prepared steamer. Steam for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove dumplings from steamer and unwrap foil to serve.

 

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