It’s Totoro Week! It’s the 5th annual Totoro week and I’m celebrating with a vengeance with these Totoro inari sushi. What’s a Totoro, you ask? Well, it’s a magical bunny-cat hybrid from the cult classic anime, My Neighbor Totoro. Have you watched it? It’s happy and sad and poignant and cute, all at the same time. As for Totoro Week, well, that’s just a little something I came up with because I love dressing up food as Totoro.
My first ever food Totoro was spam musubi and after that, I invited some friends to join in the fun. Actually, to be honest, I invited friend, namely Lyndsay from Coco Cake Land. She’s been making cute-ass Totoro sweet things alongside me for 4 years now. TFFs! (that’s Totoro Friends Forever, for those of you not in the know ;)) Anyway, to kick things off, I made inari, in the shape of Totoro, obviously.
Inari is one of those sushis that I always enjoy when I eat them, but never order. They always get passed by for ruby red salmon, melt in the mouth tuna, or tamago. But, when I do have inari, I’m in love. They’re so incredibly addictive when done right: toothsome vinegary rice tucked into a little deep fried tofu pocket that’s been simmered with dashi, soy, and a touch of sugar. Perfect for when you’re looking for a satisfying little snack.
The best thing about inari might be the fact that they’re incredibly easy to make. You can make the tofu pockets, but you can buy them just as easily and if you do, you can spend that extra time making Totoro inari! They kind of look a little like cone head Totoros, but that’s the nature of the shape of the pockets. Making them is pretty intuitive after you figure out where you cut the ears (on the cut side, where the pouch opens up). From there, you just pop in a ball of rice, put on his features, and poke in his ears. I used these nori punches (for his eyes, nose, and tummy) and a new bubble tea straw to cut out cheese eyes, but you can always use scissors too.
Happy Totoro Week! If you make anything Totoro-y, please let me know, I’d love to see!
PS – Check out Lyndsay’s Totoro Matcha Frankenstein Cake!
- 1 cup short grain Japanese rice
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
Rinse the rice, then drain well in a colander and let dry for 15 minutes.
Bring the rice and water to a boil in a pot (make sure the pot has a lid, you’ll need it later). When the water comes to a rolling boil, place the lid on and turn the heat down to to low. Set a timer for 17 minutes and cook, without peeking. When the 17 minutes are up, turn off the heat and set the timer for 10 minutes. The rice will continue to cook with the lid on, so don’t open it!
Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Gently warm over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. When the 10 minute resting period for the rice is finished, move it to a very large bowl. Sprinkle on the seasoned vinegar all over the rice. Use a slicing motion with the edge or your rice paddle or spatula, gently separating the rice grains while mixing in the seasoning. Fan the rice while mixing to help dry it out. Cover with a damp towel to keep warm.
Notes: This is a scaled version of Morimoto’s sushi rice recipe. He uses sake-mash vinegar and rice vinegar, but I adapted this recipe to just use rice vinegar. I also dialed down the salt a bit. Don’t worry if the rice seems too wet while you’re mixing in the vinegar – the rice grains will absorb all the flavor and dry out a bit while you’re fanning. It helps if you have someone to fan while you’re mixing, but you can definitely do it by yourself.
TOTORO INARI SUSHI RECIPE
MAKES 6 INAR- PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES
ACTIVE TIME: 15 MINUTES – TOTAL TIME: 30 MINUTES
- 1 portion sushi rice, recipe above
- 6 inari age pouches
- juice from the inari age pouches
- white cheese – cut into Totoro tummies, mouths and eyeballs
- seaweed – cut into eyeballs, noses, teeth and tummy triangles
- uncooked spaghetti, fried in a bit of oil and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Open the package of the inari age pouches, making sure to reserve the juice in a small bowl.
Take a pouch and note where the opening is. At the bottom of the pouch, on the side the opens up, cut out a ear shape through both sides of the pouch, kind of a curved line – these will be your ears. Carefully peel the pouch open. Wet your hand with the inari juice and take about 3 tablespoons of rice and shape it into a ball/egg. Gently place into the pouch, with the top of the pouch acting as kind of a hood.
Add his eyes (with cheese as the whites and seaweed as eyeballs) and nose. Use the spaghetti sticks to pop his ears into the right spots. Add his seaweed chest furries and you’re done. Repeat with the remaining inari pockets and enjoy!
Notes: Be sure to be aware of the spaghetti holding up Totoro’s ears. While technically, it’s edible, it’s uber crunchy and not very good. You could also try using Pretz to secure his ears, which at least would taste good 🙂
You can see the corner of package of aburaage pouches I used in one of the photos. I bought them from a Japanese market, but you can also get them online, in a can. I haven’t tried the ones in can so I can’t vouch for them but if you want to, you can also make them.