Friday, July 29, 2016

Leek Onigiri Inspired by Natsuki Takaya's Fruits Basket Vol. 1 and 2

I discovered manga at the beginning of 2016. I used to laugh at the concept: a graphic novel read backwards with large-eyed characters whose genders are difficult to discern upon first glance? Pffft. That's ridiculous.

But, as it turns out, this assessment of mine was entirely wrong. A huge shock, since that practically never happens. 

When I started reading manga, I stuck exclusively with shounen manga (manga for teen guys) over shojo manga (manga for teen girls). I mean, if I have the option between dudes with swords or girls with heartbreak, I'm taking dudes with swords every time. 

So, when one of my followers recommended I read Fruits Basket, I was skeptical. It's shojo manga, after all, and based around the concept of a family that turns into their respective zodiac animal when hugged by somebody of the opposite sex. What? No. That's so random. But then a few other people told me I would really, really like it, so I gave it a shot. 
I'm now a huge fan of Fruits Basket. It's everything I like: tons of humor, sweet characters, touching themes, great friendship. It's the kind of story that you read and walk away feeling extremely happy and fluffy. 

Basically, when I recommend this manga to people, I just walk around saying, "Here, read this. Why? Because: 

I bought the "Ultimate edition" Vol. 1, which is Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 in one book. I did this because 1) It's the kind of story I love so much I want to own 2) It's a gorgeous shade of blue, and I like blue (as I'm sure you can't tell from my blog design and my hair color). 

Anyway, here's the story: 

Tohru Honda was an orphan with nowhere to live and nobody to look after her until the mysterious Sohma family takes her in. They give her a place to live and she cleans the house and cooks their meals, which is one of her favorite things to do. It's not such a bad gig. They all go to the same school (with the exception of Shigure, who is the head of the household). This can get a bit difficult at times because Kyo and Yuki can never seem to get along, but that's okay. Tohru is sure she can make them be friends soon. 

It's really the perfect life....Once you get over the fact that the Sohma family is under an ancient curse that transforms them into zodiac animals when hugged by the opposite gender. And, because Tohru is an eternal optimist, this really isn't such a big problem at all! Maybe she'll be able to help them break free of this curse. It's the least she can do, really, for the family that has made her feel safe and loved once again. 
I'm not even sure what genre this series falls under. It's definitely comedy, and it may fall under the rom-com category. But it also has magic and ancient family curses. And mythology. And general fluffiness. So yeah. Whatever genre that is. 

I'm really fascinated with how this series is able to balance humor with very beautiful, thoughtful messages. I don't know many authors who are able to balance comedy and inspiration quiet like Takaya. 

There was one scene that really stuck out to me in volume 2. Tohru is making onigiri (a rice triangle with some kind of filling stuck to the back), and notices that Kyo-kun can't seem to see his own worth. So she sits down and explains this to him: 
Tip 1: Manga is read from right to left.
Tip 2: An umeboshi is a pickled plum often put on the back of onigiri.

This scene made me sit back and smile, because it's true, isn't it? Everybody is chasing after being like somebody else. They see how amazing other people are, and they feel insecure about themselves because they can't recognize their own worth. They don't know that they have a umeboshi on their back, too. 

That's why it's important to have people like Tohru in your life: to remind you that you are important, too. 

And to make sure that you eat your leeks. 

Yes, leeks. Kyo and Tohru are in a constant battle over leeks. She loves them, he abhors them. But, she's the cook, so she's always making food with leeks in them. She even makes a leek onigiri, which is what gave me the idea for this post. 

I had actually never had leeks before. And, I gotta say, even though Kyo-kun is my favorite character, he's completely off this time. Leeks are amazing. 
Ingredients - 
  • 2 cups of short grain rice, rinsed 3 to 4 times. If you don't rinse this, it will be insanely sticky.
  • 1 leek stalk, sliced. 
  • 2 tablespoons of miso. My regular grocery store didn't have any, so I ended up getting some at this random Japanese market in my neighborhood that I didn't even know existed. It was right next to Iglesia Del Senior Jesus Christo. I love Southern California. 
  • 1/4 cup of water, vegetable broth, or chicken stock. 
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
Directions - 

1. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a large pan. Turn to medium heat and add rice. Stir, add 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, put a lid on it, turn to low heat, and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Once the time is up, remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then remove the lid. That is how I cook rice. Everybody does it differently, so if you have a better plan, more power to you. 

2. While waiting for the rice to cook: On medium heat, cook leeks in 1/4 cup of water or your choice of broth (I like it with chicken stock, but it doesn't really matter). Cook until the leeks are beginning to grow less rigid. Add the miso, cook until the leeks are limp. Now taste it. Is it not the most amazing food? 

3. Once the rice has cooled, dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a warm bowl of water. The water is for you to dip your hands in and keep the rice from sticking all over you. The salt is to season the rice. Smart, huh? 

4. Mold the rice into a hand-sized triangle, burrow a hollow in the middle, and stick a spoonful of leeks into the center. Cover it up a bit with rice. You can experiment with how you shape the onigiri, but that's how I do mine. It's probably very non-traditional, so excuse this American for possibly skewering a beautiful Japanese tradition. 
5. You can wrap the onigiri in seaweed if you want to. I did, because it's traditional, but I take it off before eating because I can't stand the taste. It reminds me of the way fish guts smell down at the harbor. Not a good taste. But that's just me. 
Don't cry, little guy. You're not just plain rice. You have yummy leeks on your back.
6. Eat as is or with some soy sauce or tamari. This makes a great lunch! Or breakfast. Or snack. Basically, they taste really good and can be eaten anytime. They're like the Japanese version of a sandwich. 

Recently, a nearby shopping center put in a Daiso. I had no idea what it was, but it's tagline (Japanese quality) made me go inside. It is the strangest and funnest store I have ever seen: It's like a funky Japanese home goods store. All of their packages are in Japanese. It's awesome.

Anyway, that's where I got the fun plate and mini lotus dish.
In case you're wondering, the amber stuff in the lotus dish is a Japanese plum sauce. I tried using plum sauce in the onigiri in place of umeboshi, but it didn't turn out well, which is why I'm going to spare your mouth some unhappiness and not give you the recipe. 

These onigiri are super fun to make, not only because they taste good, but because they make me think of a manga that always puts a massive smile on my face. 

If you ever find yourself wanting a sweet, fluffy read that will make you feel all melty inside, then read Fruits Basket. I cannot recommend it enough. Many thanks to the awesome followers of mine who told me I'd enjoy it. You guys were right. 

Have you read Fruits Basket? I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you have any manga recommendations for me, please let me know!

Related articles:
In Which I Make Mini Cottleston Pies Inspired by A.A. Milne's The World of Pooh

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  1. I'm so glad you love this series!! This recipe looks great; I'll have to check it out! Thanks for the great content, as always :)

    1. Yes, I love it! So glad you recommended it. =) The recipe is super yummy. Hope you enjoy it!

  2. What a great idea! The onigiri looks so yummy.

    This totally made me smile. :-D I LOVE Fruits Basket! Unfortunately I didn't get to read the last volume before I left the U.S. But I'm sure I'll get around to it eventually. Also, the anime is totally worth watching.

    1. I keep hearing really good things about the anime. I'll have to hunt it down and watch it. Thanks for the comment! Hopefully you'll get to read that last volume!

  3. Dude, you're a culinary genius!!! :))) This is awesome, Hannah. I watched the Fruits Basket anime, and loved it. That and Wallflower - awesome stuff!

    1. Haha! Thank you. =)

      I've never watched Wallflower (or the Fruits Basket anime). They both look awesome. Adding them to my "to watch" list.

  4. Thanks, Hannah. I'm teaching 6th/7th grade Language Arts this year for the first time. I was looking for possible light novels or even manga to share with the kids. This looks like it might work. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh, how fun! I think this would make a good choice, though the characters, when turning back to human, end up without any clothes. Nothing inappropriate is shown, but the suggestion of it may be sensitive to some 6th graders. =) I hope you check it out and enjoy it!

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