Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Inarizushi

Note: This article has been substantially improved and updated here, but I'm leaving this original as-is for the simpler approach using canned skins.

[Another update: Lower-calorie inarizushi filled with a mixture of rice and hijiki seaweed

Being on the road at the moment has given me some idle time on trains, in my hotel room, etc. to finally sort through some of my food pictures that I haven't posted about here. It struck me that a lot of the pictures were of round food, or food in rounds. Anyway, this is Round Food no. 1.

I think that the most popular post on this site is the one about onigiri, or rice balls. Onigiri are fun and tasty, and cute too, but the other kind of 'little handful of rice' food that I love is inarizushi. Inarizushi is also called o-inari-san in Japan, a sort of term of respect and endearment combined. Inari also the name of a Shinto diety (it's a bit fuzzy as to whether a god or goddess). O-Inari-san the diety has many little shrines scattered on roadsides around Japan, as well as many temples, but the most endearing homage to him/her is probably o-inari-san the rice snack.

Basically, inarizushi is a fried tofu skin (aburaage) that's been cooked in a sweet-soy sauce based sauce, drained then stuffed with sushi rice. It's the type of homey sushi that you never see in sushi restaurants, though you do see them more often nowadays at take-out obento or sushi places. It can be time consuming to make if you start from scratch - that is, preparing the skins to make the bean bags. However, here I give the cheat version: using prepared bean bags. These are a bit more expensive than the unprepared fried tofu skins, but you do save a whole lot of time and effort.

The prepared bean bags are available either canned or in a vacuum-packed variety. I use the canned kind because they are just as good as the other kind, but a bit cheaper. Look for them in Japanese or Korean food stores - either ask for Inarizushi no moto or look for English translations on the cans that say something like Prepared Fried Bean Curd Skin or something like that. The brand I use is Santa, which has a very rotund old Santa Claus as the trademark. The skin is quite sweet, while the filling has that salty/sweet/sour taste of sushi rice, and it all goes together marvelously. if you supply moistened towels to wipe fingers they make great party food, since the bags prevent the rice from drying out. It's actually even better after they have 'rested' for an hour or so, since the flavor of the skins penetrates into the rice.

The picture makes the little bags look rather oily, but they aren't at all: the shine comes from the soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine) and sugar in the cooking liquid. For people who are inclined to make everything from scratch I've also included a recipe to make the bags from plain aburaage, but using the recipe I posted here before for Japanese essence in a bottle.

Inarizushi

To make 16 o-inari-san:

  • One can of prepared fried bean curd skins, or Inaruzushi no moto
  • 2 - 2 1/2 cups of basic sushi rice

Prepare the sushi rice, but add an extra bit of salt and a teaspoon more of sugar to the sushi vinegar mix. Let cool to room temperature, following the instructions.

Take the bean bags out of the can carefully, and drain off the liquid. Drain each one by squeezing very gently in your hand. You'll notice that each 'bag' has an open end and a closed end; carefully pry open the open end and hold the bag in your hand. Make ready a cup or water or wa ter and vinegar, and dip a tablespoon into it before taking a rounded spoonful of the rice. Stuff the rice into the bag. Some people find it easier to take a small handful of rice in a moistened hand, squeeze gently then stuff into the bag. You don't want to overstuff the bags, or they will tear.

Close up the bag, and place open-end down on a plate. You can garnish this with gari (pickled sushi ginger) if you like.

Variation You can mix in some toasted white sesame seeds (not gomashio, which would be too salty) into the rice, or flaked salmon, etc. but they are really best just plain.

The instructions for cooking your own skins.

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Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Apart from Unagi sushi, Inarizushi is also one of my favourite sushi. I think perhaps I like sushi that has some sweetness in it. We have only one Japanese grocer in Oslo, Norway where I live and I think they do sell Inarizushi skin, vacuum-packed and frozen. I might give this recipe a try since it's quite rare to find Inarizushi at the sushi joints that I frequent (you can only get them at the more expensive Japanese restaurants).

OsloFoodie | 11 March, 2005 - 23:39

Unagi sushi is my fave, too.

Unagi sushi is my fave, too. ^^

Lin M. | 18 July, 2008 - 08:02

Just Hungry | Japanese food! Authentic, mostly healthy Japanese

Honestly, rather of of being panic, i really love this song.
This, of course, would only materialize with consent starting from the three appropriee teachers.

Valeria | 19 September, 2013 - 13:07

Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Hi Maki,

I love inarizushi. I haven't made it in a while, but I've eaten it many times in the last month. My only dilemma with making this is buying the aburage and making the rice. It usually ends up being too much for me to eat by myself.

Reid | 13 March, 2005 - 10:37

Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Hi -

I saw your blog mentioned on food porn watch, and recognised the quote "I was just really very hungry" which brought me to your main page with the other quote «why do you write about hunger, and not about wars or love?». I think it would introduce people to MFK Fisher if you attributed her quotes to her. I went to "About this Site" hoping you would mention her name there, but you didn't.

Portia | 13 March, 2005 - 12:00

Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Portia, I think you read my mind because I was working on my MFK Fisher essay for days, and I finally finished it today. :)

maki | 13 March, 2005 - 19:10

Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

I cook my aburage in a simple mirin/sake/soy/vegetable broth solution and then reduce and thicken the leftover solution so that I have a lovely and I'm sure totally unauthentic dipping sauce for my inari. It's very yummy however!

rose bengal | 25 March, 2005 - 21:58

Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Hi,

I had heard of people putting dried beans in bean bags but never sushi! Then I saw the picture and understood right away. They look delicious

beanbags | 2 March, 2006 - 22:54

That is SO odd that you

That is SO odd that you posted that about the inarizushi. I was just thinking the other night “that would be a great bento food” since I saw the soybean pouches for sale at the Asian market I frequent. I tried my first piece with some unagi rolls the other night at our local sushi place. Definitely tasty!

Lin M. | 18 July, 2008 - 08:01

SUSHI OF DOOOOOM!

My mom makes inarizushi all of the time, and it makes me sad because I don’t like the taste!!!!

Why does everyone in my family love it except for me :( I think the pouch is just too sweet for me. Which I guess is why I can’t eat the sweetbean buns that my mom also likes.

Jeanna | 18 July, 2008 - 13:07

Re: SUSHI OF DOOOOOM!

Inarizushi is one of my favorites when I go out (I've never tried making it), but I always save it for last because it is so sweet. I also save some of the gari and have a good-sized piece of that with each bite of the inarizushi. It's delicious! The sharpness of the gari and the sweetness of the inarizushi balance each other well. Those who find inarizushi too sweet might like to try this.

Lynne | 19 September, 2011 - 06:05

I was wondering, can I store

I was wondering, can I store the inarizushi skins from the can (or my own homemade ones) for a few days or longer? I bought a Santa can and it’s too much to finish at a time, so are we able to leave the extra skins immersed in its liquid and put them in the fridge?

SephXIII | 30 August, 2008 - 15:05

Sure, you can store them out

Sure, you can store them out of the can in a tightly sealed container or bag in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Beyond that, you may want to try either freezing them or, if you can’t use them up for more inarizushi, try slicing up the skins and adding to stir fries or soups and so on.

maki | 30 August, 2008 - 19:18

inari n mayo

Hi there. Where I live is not possible to find tofu pockets, so I was wondering if you had a recipe to make them from scratch.

Also I’d like to know if there is too much difference in taste from J-Mayo and American mayo like Kraft or Helmans. In any case, which brand, if any (even others beside those)resembles J-Mayo the most?

Albert | 31 October, 2008 - 09:42

I have tried making aburaage

I have tried making aburaage (thin fried tofu skins) at home, but it’s difficult to form the pocket in the middle. I have read that a special process is used to reliably form a pocket. You can try slicing regular tofu and deep frying it slowly, YMMV.

Japanese mayonnaise is more eggy and a bit sweeter than American brands, but for most dishes you can use Helman’s or Kraft or any brand that is a proper mayonnaise (not salad cream or no-fat mayo etc.) See also how to make homemade mayonnaise which has a Japanese-style mayo version.

maki | 31 October, 2008 - 11:20

Re: Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

I wasn't too fond of the name...but once I saw the picture, it looks rather appetizing.

I may actually have to try this.

Thank you very much for sharing.

Harvard | 26 July, 2009 - 07:38

Re: Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

I made this for the first time for my lunch today, and it was delicious-just like in the sushi bar!

I am a new teacher, and have been finding your site very helpful for my daily bento box. I've been eating so well thanks to you; this site is just a lifesaver for me!

Jenny | 16 September, 2009 - 01:44

Re: Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

I like to make these with chopped beni shoga--makes the rice look pretty and gives it a little crunchy bite of flavor. I also sometimes either chop up of just hide a whole umeboshi in there (also gives the rice an unexpected shock of flavor). I love inarizushi but am able to find it in almost every sushi shop I go to (ok, maybe not the ones run by non-Japanese)--even Safeway now sells inarizushi, they even sometimes have it with brown rice too (which is good, I'm not a big fan of brown rice too). I don't like too much stuff in my inarizushis. Read a recipe on Food Network (I think) that had a whole lot of stuff chopped up and mixed in with the rice, just seemed like overkill (and typical of certain chefs who want to fancy something that is simply perfect as it is).

anon. | 27 May, 2010 - 04:25

Re: Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Hi,
just to say, I really enjoy your blog!I'm from lovely Ireland and love Japanese food.
Inari-zushi is one of my favourites, I eat any left over skins for days, in miso soup or just over rice with some veg.
I'm taking Japanese lessons, and hope to go next year to see the country and sample the culinary delights!

micki

micki m. | 16 December, 2010 - 20:50

Re: Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Hi! I've been making o-inari-san for awhile now, I was buying the frozen pouches and making them myself (ie boiling them in a sauce). They've been good... but I was feeling lazy and so I bought some pre-made ones, specifically this brand:
http://www.asianfoodgrocer.com/product/misuzu-oinarisan-9-5-oz-16pcs
Actually... they're much better, in my opinion, than making my own! They save about 30 minutes worth of work in the kitchen - I throw the rice in the rice cooker, come back later, mix in vinegar and hijeki, and stuff the pouches. Takes about 10 minutes total, down from 40-50. Plus, this brand is quite tasty, and at my Japanese store they're cheaper than buying the canned version.

Thank you for all the recipes, longtime reader first time commenter ^_^

サリ | 26 August, 2011 - 17:30

Re: Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

Hi,

I'm really fascinated on japanese foods especially inarizushi..I

really love it! Would you kindly teach me the easiest way on how

to make bean curd pocket? Please...i'm looking forward for your

reply..Thanks and more power! (.'_'.)

Bullet*

bullet | 30 May, 2012 - 04:51

Re: Inarizushi: sushi in a bean bag

It's a shame to use the canned skins when you can make your own in just 15 minutes! You simply mix dashi (or water), shoyu, and mirin on low heat, with the desired amount of sugar, and then add the tofu and simmer for a bit. Afterwards, I usually let the skins cool in the liquid to soak up more flavor. It is key that it be the correct type of abura age (about 5 cm by 5 cm and <1 cm thick) or the pocket won't form. The big advantage to this method is you can control the sweetness. You can even leave out the sugar entirely, which completely transforms the flavor.

Akizora | 5 November, 2012 - 16:38

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