Monday, December 28, 2009

The Way to a Child's Stomach is through his Anime

My food, and my little victory, are one in the same, today, and it's all because of anime.

When you have children who like anime, here's something to consider: the characters are probably eating different foods than you're used to, if you're a westerner like myself. But the good part is, a lot of those foods are rice based. Great for those of us with gluten issues, yes? As long as we can get some gluten-free soy sauce and a recipe, we're pretty set.

And if my kids are anything to go by, offering them a food that a beloved anime character just ate is a sure fire way to get them to eat.

The food that you will find in hordes of anime shows, one that is fantastically easy to make, is a rice ball. My kids spent over an hour today making rice balls and consuming them at speeds heretofore unknown in human kind. And I owe it all to anime, because when they heard that they, too, could have 'rice balls,' their eyes lit up and they were on that idea like, pardon the pun, white on rice.

So, how do you make a rice ball? Here's a simple way to go about it. I am SURE there are better ways, or more interesting ways, but here's my simple, unenlightened method for cranking these out.

Rice Balls:
What you'll need:
glutinous rice, or sticky rice. It's very short grained, and most often found in the Asian or 'ethnic' section of the normal grocery store, or an asian grocery, or you can order it on line if you're desperate, I'm sure.

nori, or toasted nori, or nori seaweed - these are square, flat sheets of seaweed. If you can't find this, don't worry. It's nice, but not necessary


fillings - I'll talk about this at the end.

What to do:
First, and this is the part that will make a difference, you want to SOAK this rice. It usually doesn't say it on the package, but you need to do this to be able to make a rice ball that doesn't fall apart. It's crucial for the rice to get nice and sticky. Soak your rice for 6 hours, or overnight.

Then, drain the rice, and next, cook it. When you cook this stuff, you can cook it just like 'normal' rice. Get 2 cups of water to 1 cup rice, dump it in a pot together and bring it to a boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. You don't have to add salt (although you can if you want to) because there will salt added later.

Now you let it cool enough for you to handle it without burning your hands. At this point, I get a big bowl for each child and dump enough rice in for them to make a few rice balls each. I get a plate with salt in it, and a small bowl of water. If I have nori, I cut small 1-2 inch strips in it with a pair of shears, and then cut those in half, widthwise.

To make a plain rice ball, with no filling, the children should put their hands in the water, then place each hand in the salt to get a bit of salt on their palms, then they pick up the rice and shape it in their hand. Once they have the desired shape, they can get a piece of nori and wrap it around one side, as a good place to hold it when it gets eaten later.

To get the 'triangle' shape often seen in the anime shows, put the rice on the palm, and make an 'L' shape with the other hand. Then cup the other hand over the rice and press it against the palm, and you have the lovely 'triangle.'

FILLING: The filling can be whatever the kids can dream up. Little pieces of tuna, or salmon with a little gluten free soy sauce mixed in with it, or fruit, or scrambled egg, or cut up pieces of pickles (surprisingly good, I understand). Literally anything. To make a rice ball with filling, just put half the desired amount of rice in their hand, then put a small bit of filling in the middle, and then add the rest of the rice and shape around the filling.

These keep well in the fridge, and can be eaten hot or cold. The rice can also be refrigerated and used the next day, or frozen and thawed for later use.

Also, for those who are a little more health conscious, you can find brown glutinous rice if you have an asian market, or care to hunt it down on-line. Just as tasty, but with a little more chewiness to it, as I understand it.

Anyway, I hope this helps some of you who might have small children with a love for anime and a dislike of a 'gluten free' diet! Take care, and Happy Holidays!

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