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)
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
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6-8 taro leaves (substitute bamboo or banana leaves)
- Prepare shitake mushrooms as instructed on package.
- Heat vegetable oil in large pot or saucepan. Add carrot and hydrated shiitake mushrooms. Stir fry for 2 minutes
- 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.
- 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.
- Place wrapped dumplings in prepared steamer. Steam for 20 minutes.
- Remove dumplings from steamer and unwrap foil to serve.