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Note: I did a cooking demo of this recipe at the Portuguese Festival in San Jose last Saturday. To see photos of the day, click here. To visit the festival’s website, click here.
I am half Portuguese–my father is one hundred percent Portuguese. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but my paternal grandmother was born in Madiera, Portugal. My father and grandfather were born in Honolulu. If you had known me when I was young, you would have thought I was Hawaiian. My first words were Hawaiian…Pau (finished, to mean I was done eating). Opu nui (big stomach, to say I’d eaten a lot). At family gatherings and celebrations, we wore leis and muumuus, danced the hula, and sang Hawaiian songs. My grandmother entertained us by speaking pidgin English. Everyone was proud of being attached to Hawaii.
I had no idea that I was Portuguese until I was in the fifth grade, when a teacher recognized the origin of my name. Unlike my father, and his parents, I am very proud of my Portuguese heritage as well as my Hawaiian roots. The other half? Heinz 57. All of the heritage lost except for the habit of drinking black tea in the afternoon.
You’re wondering about the title, Best Ever Sushi? Hawaii is a mix of cultures and cuisines. With a Japanese cook at home, my father grew up eating white rice every day—so that’s what my mom cooked for us. Growing up, I heard my father talk longingly about “the cone kind”—his favorite childhood snack. Vendors would sell what the Hawaiians call da cone kine outside of the Hawaiian schools. Not until I visited Hawaii for the first time when I was nineteen did I get to taste it. In the 1970s, a Japanese friend taught me how to make it. The real name is inarizushi. It’s made from seasoned sushi rice stuffed into fried tofu that’s been simmered in sake, soy sauce, and sugar. You can find inarizushi at supermarket sushi bars–at my store it is called S-sushi. It really doesn’t compare to homemade.
Here’s the inarizushi recipe I made at Dia de Portugal in San Jose. The theme of the festival this year was the Portuguese who came from Hawaii. So the recipe made sense to me–it was my Portuguese father’s favorite dish from Hawaii. I omitted the traditional dried shitake mushrooms and added finely diced linguiça, my favorite Portuguese sausage. What a great combo.
Print Inarizushi Recipe
Inarizushi with Linquiça–Da Cone Kine
Yield: 40 inarizushi (quantity may vary based on the size of the tofu “cone”)
3 cups Japanese sushi rice
1-1/4 cups Japanese rice vinegar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1. Wash the rice several times. Cover the rice with fresh water; soak about 1/2 hour. Drain and rinse the rice a couple times. Add cold water until it reaches 1 inch above the level of the rice—the authentic way is to measure up to the first joint on your index finger. (At this point, use a rice cooker or follow the rice cooking instructions in step #2.)
2. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and cook the rice over medium-high heat until the water is boiled away, 8 to 12 minutes—but CHECK THE WATER LEVEL A COUPLE TIMES to prevent burning the rice, removing the lid and replacing it quickly. Reduce the heat to low; steam 15 minutes without removing the lid. Remove from the heat; let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork (if using a rice cooker, when the rice is ready, fluff it with a fork).
3. Meanwhile, prepare the awase-zu (seasoned vinegar). Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl; stir until dissolved. Turn the hot rice out into a large bowl (preferably wooden). Pour about half of the seasoned vinegar over the warm rice; let stand a few minutes. To mix, cut into the rice with a wooden spoon (instead of stirring, which mashes the rice). Add more of the seasoned vinegar to taste (you might not need all of it); stir gently. If you have a helper, have them use a fan to help cool the rice and make it glisten. Taste the rice—it should be well seasoned and not too wet. Cover the rice with a cloth.
Tofu (Age), Carrot, and Linguiça Preparation:
20 whole Japanese age (see Note, below)
Boiling water (a teakettle full)
1-1/2 cups cold water
3/4 cup sake
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
1 link fully cooked linguiça (about 7 ounces)
3 medium carrots, peeled
4. Cut the age into halves crosswise to form pouches. (Note, if using canned age, they are already cut). Put the age into a large, heatproof bowl; cover with the boiling water. Drain; rinse under cold water. Drain again. When cool enough to handle, squeeze one piece of age at a time to remove excess water.
5. Put the 1-1/2 cups cold water into a large saucepan; add the sake, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir to dissolve sugar; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the age. Simmer 20 minutes—do not let the age fall apart. (If using canned age, simmer 15 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the age to a colander to cool. RESERVE THE COOKING LIQUID in the saucepan.
6. Meanwhile, cut the linguiça in half crosswise and then slice in half lengthwise. Brown the linguiça on both sides in a small skillet. Add the linguiça and carrots to the saucepan with the reserved cooking liquid (add water, if needed to cover halfway). Simmer until the carrots are just barely tender, 4 to 6 minutes (do not cook too long or grating will be impossible). Drain; transfer the carrots and linguiça to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, grate the carrots and finely dice the linguiça. Add to the rice; again, cut into the rice with the edge of a wooden spoon, without mashing the rice, until the carrots and linguiça are well distributed.
7. Have handy a shallow bowl of water and a clean damp kitchen towel. Open one age pouch at a time; hold it in one hand and dip the other hand into the bowl of water. (Alternatively, use disposable gloves—the rice doesn’t stick to them.) With the wet hand (not dripping), carefully stuff the age with rice. The age should appear wrinkled when filled—if not, it is too full. Wipe hands as needed on the damp towel. Arrange the inarizushi with the rice side on a platter. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time.
Make-ahead Notes: The sushi is best eaten soon after making it, but it can be made a day ahead. To store, cover the platter of sushi tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate (cooked rice is perishable). Bring out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving.
Serving suggestions: Inarizushi is great picnic food or a snack. It is also a good starter before a Japanese meal or as part of a sushi course with a variety of sushi.
are fried tofu that are hollow in the middle. (They may not look hollow until after cooking them in step #5—if they have excess spongy matter in the middle, gently remove it.) Look for them in the refrigerator section of Japanese markets, either bulk or in packages. They are also sold in cans but fresh are preferable. Fresh age