Onigri - rice balls filled with flavourful goodness – are served in almost every izakaya in Japan. Stuff them with ginger and plum vinegar-infused chicken for a sweet and zesty snack.
For the chicken rice balls, cook the sushi rice as directed on the package, using 500ml of water. When cooked fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly.
To make the marinade, mix the plum sauce, mirin, plum vinegar, soy sauce, Ginger and Japanese seven spice in a large bowl. Remove 3 tablespoons of the marinade to a small bowl and reserve. Add the chicken to the remaining marinade, cover, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To cook the chicken, heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and add them to the pan, then cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the reserved marinade to the pan and cook for 3 - 5 minutes longer or until the chicken is browned and cooked through, turning frequently.
To form the rice balls, wrap 1 chicken piece in 1 bok choy leaf. Scoop 1 heaped tbs of warm rice into the palm of your hand and make a deep indentation in the rice. Place the bok choy wrapped chicken in the indentation. Top with more rice. Using your hands, shape the rice around the chicken form into a triangle or a ball, which encloses the filling. Place on a parchment paper lined tray. Repeat with the remaining chicken, bok choy and rice. Cover with cling film and then freeze for 30 minutes or until they are slightly frozen.
Meanwhile for the creamy plum vinegar ginger sauce, mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until they are well blended. Cover. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Remove the rice balls from the freezer. Dip each rice ball in the beaten egg, then roll in panko breadcrumbs to coat evenly, then return to the tray. Heat the oil for deep frying to 180°C/350°F Add half of the rice balls and cook them for 5 minutes or until they are brown. Drain them on paper towels and repeat until they are all cooked. Serve the rice balls with creamy plum vinegar ginger sauce.
Ume plum vinegar or umeboshi vinegar is a Japanese condiment with salty, sour and sweet flavours. It is a by-product of pickling Japanese plums. It can be found in natural or organic food stores, Asian markets or online.
Keep a bowl of cold water nearby when preparing the rice balls. If your hands get too sticky while forming the rice balls, wet them in the cold water and continue forming the rice balls.
An onigiri mold can be used to make it easier to form the rice balls. Look for them in Asian markets or online.
All components of this dish can be made ahead. Store the prepared sushi rice, cooked chicken and creamy plum vinegar ginger sauce in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the sushi rice and prep bok choy leaves before forming the rice balls. Freeze and cook the rice balls as directed.