Sushi comes in many forms, whether it’s rolled-up maki, bite-sized nigiri, box-shaped oshizushi, or artfully arranged over a bed of rice for chirashizushi… but one of the most simple and easily overlooked type has to be the humble inari zushi!
Made of inari age (seasoned deep fried tofu pouches) stuffed with tangy sushi rice, inari zushi resembles a golden brown pillow. The inari age gives this dish a sweet and slightly salty flavour, and it’s spongy texture contrasts the chewiness of the rice.
Inari zushi makes frequent appearances in anime, particularly in shows that feature kitsune (fox gods) or the Shinto kami (god), Inari Okami… In Japan, inari zushi is a popular item left as an offering at Inari shrines not only because the supposed favourite food of Inari Okami‘s kitsune is inari age, but also because the pointed tips of inari zushi resemble the pointed ears of a fox!
Now, this isn’t a post on the inner workings of the Japanese language, but I’ll just add a quick note about the name of this dish: zushi and sushi are the same word… why the difference? The short answer is that some words in Japanese change their first letter if preceded by certain words, mainly to make pronunciation easier!
Another note: inari zushi is also called oinari-san (the “o” in front and “san” on the end acting as an honorific), and shows a certain degree of respect. I actually generally refer to this dish as oinari-san, but either one is perfectly acceptable. Other inanimate objects that get honorifics include ocha (cha meaning tea), Fuji-san (known as Mount Fuji in English), or omochi (mochi referring to a type of glutinous rice cake).
About the recipe:
Making inari zushi is super simple, especially if you already have inari age (seasoned deep fried tofu pouches) on hand! But while it’s essentially just sushi rice stuffed inside a tofu pouch, if you want, you can really dress this recipe up by simply mixing in some optional seasonings and ingredients such as sesame seeds, nori, and shiso, among others.
Inari zushi is a great addition to a bento, especially since it’s filling, easy to make, and contains a little bit of protein in the tofu pouch! It’s also a unique appetizer to serve, and with only a few modifications, it can also be made quite attractive as well.
About the ingredients:
Inari age is seasoned deep fried tofu pouches. It can be bought pre-seasoned in many Asian grocery stores (either in a package or in a can), or you can season it yourself at home using this recipe.
Shiso is a type of leafy herb that is also known as perilla in English. Wonderfully fragrant and distinctively flavoured, shiso is related to the mint plant and can be either bright green or a deep purple/red colour. It goes well with sushi dishes, and is often used as a garnish or as a receptacle to hold wasabi on a sushi plate. Shiso can be found in some Asian grocery stores, but may be difficult to find.
Makes 12 inari zushi
- 3 cups seasoned sushi rice
- 12 inari age (seasoned deep fried tofu pouches)
- The cooking liquid from the inari age
- 1 tbsp roasted white sesame seeds
- 1 sheet of toasted nori, minced (to mix into the rice) or whole (to wrap the rice)
- shiso leaves, minced (to mix into the rice) or whole (to wrap the rice)
- ikura or tobiko (fish roe)
1. Carefully open and separate the sides of the inari age so that it forms a pouch.
2. Moisten hands using the cooking liquid from the inari age to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands, and carefully stuff the inari age with rice, a small amount at a time.
Gathering the rice in your hands and pre-forming it into a small rice ball that is similar in shape to the tofu pouch may make the stuffing process easier. Be careful not to overstuff the pouches as they can be easily torn.
Tuck the ends of the inari age around the rice and place open side down on a serving plate.
Serve at room temperature as a sushi side or appetizer. Also, makes for a wonderful addition to a bento.
– Add flavour to the seasoned sushi rice by gently mixing in sesame seeds, minced shiso leaves, and/or thinly cut nori. Other possible mix-ins could be hijiki (a type of seaweed), or flaked salmon.
– Try gathering the rice into a small rice ball and wrapping with a small strip of nori and/or a shiso leaf before stuffing the inari age or a different look and flavour.
– For a more visually appealing dish, arrange the stuffed inari zushi with the open side facing up. Roll the edge of the tofu pouch inward to form a nice edge. Artfully garnish the top with shiso, tobiko or ikura (both are types of fish roe), nori, etc.