For lunch, I decided to try to make some fusion cuisine. My main inspiration was noticing earlier that shiso and basil are a good combination, sharing some flavor notes (and common ancestry, both being in the mint family). At a restaurant in Japan, the salad had shiso seeds on it, but they were rather soft, so I tried boiling some shiso seeds. It didn’t seem as flavorful when I tried it at home, but it could have been the variety I used. Googling has yet to show any recipes where shiso is boiled. Only toasted and those seeds were not merely toasted. Hmmm…
(Pictures coming soon…)
The first step is to chop some tomatoes. I got baby romas, sliced them into small rings, and mixed in sliced basil and salt. Since this is going to sit atop fried (and therefore oily) rice, I don’t add olive oil like I usually would for bruschetta to the tomatoes. Do add pepper and salt to taste. Mix in the shiso seeds (maybe toast instead of boil like I did). For this step, I set aside pine nuts to be toasted just in time to be added freshly to the top.
The next step is to make yaki-onigiri. I made it into a flat round shape rather than the more common triangle, in order to be more like fried polenta. If you aren’t familiar with onigiri (also known as musubi, Japanese rice balls), you basically get sticky rice and clump it together. Onigiri often have fillings, but for yaki-onigiri, plain rice is good enough. You can put the rice balls you formed into plastic in the fridge to let them dry out for frying but I skipped this step without getting sticking (though I did use a non-stick fry pan). Sprinkle olive oil on one side of the rice balls and place that side on the pan after preheating it.
After a minute or so, start toasting the pine nuts and watch both them and the rice balls to make sure nothing burns. When the first side of the rice balls gets browned, oil the other side and flip. When done, bring onto plate and shovel the tomatoes on top. Throw the freshly toasted pine nuts on top. Drizzle with ponzu sauce, then put a little bit of balsamic glaze on top. Eat immediately. Cold tomatoes and hot rice make for a nice interplay on the tongue.
This dish isn’t as strange or, rather, isn’t as fusion as it seems at first (other than the ponzu sauce and the shiso). Rice pies are present in a lot of homestyle Italian cooking, not too much unlike Tah Dig in Persian and Turkmen cuisines.