Guide | Grilled Rice

Guide | Grilled Rice

A how to guide to grilled rice, reinventing your grill guard with a classic Japanese technique!

Intro

It is the best time of year right now because, for starters it’s not winter. The second most important reason is because it is grill weather! It doesn’t get much more exciting than getting to channel your inner primitive instincts to make a fire and then cook everything on it. When you and all of the other goons at the gym get together and think about firing up the grill of course the first question that comes to mind is “What type of meat do we want?” Now pause right there and channel your inner jiujiteiro and use your creativity to change up the game. We are going to take a look at something besides meat and vegetables for the grill, rice. This is a guide to grilled rice, not only is it a delicious and simple addition to all of your weekend cook outs but it can be done used on a nightly basis for dinner.

Grilled rice…are you serious? Yup.

It's not just for burgers and hot dogs anymore. Is that blasphemous to say the first week of summer?
It’s not just for burgers and hot dogs anymore. Is that blasphemous to say the first week of summer?

Don’t be the person who sees a new move being taught and instantly say “that doesn’t look like it would work” and never try it. Because those are the moves that could completely elevate your game. In this situation we are going to elevate your grill game so you look like the Braulio Estima of the backyard charcoal fueled kitchen stadium. When we think of firing up the grill we instantly gravitate towards our primal instincts that are meat, meat, meat. But what makes grilled meat so mouth watering good is the flavor of the fire charring the meat. The same goes with grilling vegetables, what makes grilled corn so much better than steamed corn? The charred flavor, so is it really what we put on the grill that tastes good or what the grill does to what we put on it?

You could make a patty for each of your training partners and give that to them rather than black and blues...who am I kidding go submit them
You could make a patty for each of your training partners and give that to them rather than black and blues…who am I kidding go submit them

Just like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grilled rice got its origins in Japan. Grilled rice balls or triangles have been a tradition in Japanese culture for decades. They are so popular you can even find them in the frozen food sections of grocery stores in Japan. The actual name of this technique is “Yaki Onigiri.”  Yaki meaning “grilled” and Onigiri translates to “rice ball.” The translation is pretty straight forward. Yaki onigiri are simply balls of cooked sushi rice that are shaped, sometimes stuffed, and then seared or grilled to the point of almost being burnt. The reason behind this is because the rice develops a very sweet charred flavor and becomes super crispy while the inside remains to be fluffy and fantastic. What makes them even better is the fact that you only really need rice, soy sauce, salt and a grill (or oil and a pan if you do not want to fire up the grill.)  Also did I mention you can make them well in advance and freeze them for a perfect time saving snack or side dish?

Yaki Onigiri Check List

As we all know you need to get your mise en place, or things in place before you get to cooking. Much like in a gym you need to socialize, stretch, or eat a banana and have a coffee before every class or else things just wont work out well. But here is a check list so you will not be led astray! Yaki Onigiri requires just a few things, the rice, a glaze and a grill. Just saying stating those items seems very open ended, lets look at the details below.

The Rice

Do you want to touch the guy whose still steaming after class? Me either, treat the rice the same way, let it cool down.
Do you want to touch the guy whose still steaming after class? Me either, treat the rice the same way, let it cool down.

Sushi  rice | Salt | Water
1 cup | 1 tsp | 1 ½ cup

Your primary ingredient in this recipe is cooked sushi grade rice. You have to use sushi rice because of its starch content. Short grain rice has the highest starch content of rice. You need the starch in order for the rice to hold together and keep its shape while we grill or pan sear it. But ultimately before channeling our inner pyromaniac and firing up the grill we need to get everything in order. We must cook the rice.

  1. Combine the rice, water and salt in a medium sauce pot over high heat.
  2. Once the rice has come to a boil reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
  3. Cook for 20 minutes or until the water has absorbed.
  4. Remove the rice from the heat and let it cool enough to touch. I know your hands are all calloused from your nasty gi grips but still, hot is hot.
  5. Decide what shape you want, I feel the easiest and most versatile shape is a basic patty. Think of a burger patty. Wet your hands with a little warm water while forming the rice to avoid the rice sticking to your hands. You want to pack them super tight too and have the end result be a patty that is around an inch and a half think. That way they will hold their shape. Another good shape is forming them into nice like 2×2 or 3×3 cubes.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for later use or cool slightly before grilling or pan searing.

The Glaze

It will stick to you just like a black belt in a scramble
It will stick to you just like a black belt in a scramble

Soy Sauce | Mirin | Sugar | Garlic powder | Ginger powder             2 Tbsp | 2 Tbsp | 1 tsp | ½ tsp | ½ tsp

Now that we have the most basic concept down on how to make our rice patties we need to figure out how to cook them on the grill and what we want to serve with them. Anything grill straight up is fantastic all on its own. But what we typically do while grilling that makes one chicken different from the next guys is what we marinate or glaze them with. It can be as basic as just brushing with a little dark soy sauce during the grilling process but I am not a man of basics, I like to be creative. So experiment with typical Asian flavors.

Fire it up

There is something disturbingly satisfying about starting a fire successful. I mean in a grill not like in the woods or your neighbors house.
There is something disturbingly satisfying about starting a fire successfully. I mean in a grill not like in the woods or your neighbors house.

We have steps 1 and 2 done, time for us to become gods of summer and go make a fire under our metal grates. If you froze your rice patties prior to just defrost them quickly in the microwave for 2 minutes.

  1. Fire up the grill to medium heat
  2. Place the rice patties on the grill and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Don’t get anxious, leave the food alone and let it cook without moving it around and checking it every second. If you keep looking under the patties every second to see if they are cooking 9 times out of 10 you will break them and be left with a mess.
  4. After the 2 minutes flip the patty and brush it with some glaze. Cook for another 3 minutes and flip again. Brush the top side with the glaze and cook for an additional minute. That’s 6 minutes total.
  5. Remove them from the grill and serve with a size of the glaze to dip in or even better some spicy Sriracha mayo.

    Get creative and who said you cannot make a burger AND burger shaped grilled rice patties?
    Get creative and who said you cannot make a burger AND burger shaped grilled rice patties?

Important to note: if you are doing this indoors in a pan use a non stick sauté pan with a little oil over medium-high heat. The cooking times should be around the same.

Conclusion

Every Yaki Onigiri can be filled with surprises just like that new white belt who didnt tell you her was an NCAA wrestler...
Every Yaki Onigiri can be filled with surprises just like that new white belt who didnt tell you he was an NCAA wrestler…

This is a very easy and creative way for you to get some good carbs while enjoying some sunshine and the smell of the grill. It really does not get much better than being able fire up the grill and hang out in the sunshine after training.

Images: Tokyoterrace TheCornishFishMongerSeriousEats MichellesTinyKitchen

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