When I was a kid who did not like raw fish yet, I found myself ordering only three things whenever we would go out for sushi: cucumber rolls, tamagoyaki(Japanese omelet), and inarizushi. Inari refers to these puffed tofu skins that are based in a sweet soy mixture, giving them a sweet, smoky, and almost salty taste. If I were to equate the taste to anything a non-Japanese person might have had, maaaybe a honey-glazed ham in terms of flavor, with a texture kind of like a piece of super braised pork belly skin? I can assure you, as a child who did not eat raw fish, I loved inari. It is relatively simple to make, and even if you want to make more things beyond just sushi with it, you can serve it with udon or soba(which is popularly called kitsune udon/soba when served with inari), or even stuff and braise the tofu skins in a stew or soup!
With these inarizushi, I wanted to go in a fun direction with them. So I opted to make them look like one of my absolute favorite Pokemon, Rowlet! They are cute, round, and in the anime anyways, hilarious little owls with a little leaf-shaped bowtie. Since Rowlets are on the simpler side in terms of design, they actually translate really well into inarizushi. The inari replaces the brown feathers on a Rowlet, with the white representing the white. The beaks can be formed with more inari and rice, while the eyes can be punched out using nori. And that leaves are made from kaiware or daikon sprouts. Kaiware are a little spicy, but that’s fine because they add a little more flavor into the inari. I also used a tiny bit of sesame oil in the rice, just to create a more buttery texture, a trick I learned from Sugarfish here in LA. These Rowlet Inarizushi were surprisingly easy to make, and they are the perfect thing to include in a bento box for lunch!
For the rice:
1 cup short grain sushi rice
1 1/3 cups water, with more for rinsing
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Rinse the rice in a strainer until the water runs completely clear. Then place the rice into a small pot with the water and salt and place into a rice cooker. In a cup, dissolve the sugar in rice wine vinegar, mirin, and sesame oil. Once the rice is cooked, pour the mirin liquid into the rice and fold it together until combined.
Kaiware sprouts(daikon/radish sprouts)
For the inari, use small circle cutters to cut out the “face holes” for the Rowlets. I also trimmed the bottoms of the skins as well just to make the inari better resemble the body of a Rowlet. For the beaks, use small, triangular pieces of inari with a small clump of rice. Trim the stems off the kaiware sprouts. For the eyes, use either a hole puncher or a nori-cutter to cut out ovular shapes.
To assemble, place about 1/4 cup of rice into each inari skin. Then garnish with the beaks, eyes, and the bowties to finish.