Sushi rice balls or temari are easily becoming my new favorite tea meal. These colorful rice bites are a twist on ordinary cut sushi rolls, simpler to make (no sushi mat required!) and with an added touch of artistic flair. I love that you can make them using leftover tidbits of this and that, whatever you have on hand in the fridge. Like dim sum or a tea sandwich, they are delightful little delicacies, ideally served with a soothing cup of Japanese tea.
Sushi balls can be made with host of pre-prepped ingredients like lunch meats, cocktail shrimp, or even thinly sliced sushi grade fish. Here, I’ve used smoked salmon, which is easy to find and enhances the rich umami taste of the matcha flavored rice. Eaten together this way, you can taste the best of flavors from land and sea.
For vegetarian variations, you’ll want to showcase the beauty of your produce as much as possible. A cluster of carefully sliced green onions, thin pieces of ripe avocado, or vibrant orange carrot cut-outs add flavor and visual flair to your sushi game. Even Western ingredients like cheese, capers, and sliced olives make pretty embellishments.Above all, remember that creativity is key when making temari sushi. Try selecting colorful ingredients that are easily molded around the rice ball, not too bulky or too large. If you like your sushi more on the traditional side, you can nix the matcha power and make the rice balls plain, seasoned simply with sweetened rice vinegar. These crafty homemade sushi are ideal for parties, bento lunches, or even a romantic dinner. Serve them with emerald green gyokuro, grassy sencha, or caffeine-free soba cha and your artful Japanese tea meal is complete.
Matcha Sushi Balls
Makes 20 rice balls.
2 cups sushi rice
3 cups water
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp matcha
a few slices of smoked salmon
masago or caviar
cocktail shrimp, halved down the spine
black sesame seeds
rice cooker or medium pot with cover
plastic wrap, a piece the size of a sheet of paper
small bowl of cold water
large plate or baking sheet
sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters
1.) Place the rice in the pot, then wash it several times until the water runs clear. Drain off the water from the rice, then add the 3 cups of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, then let the rice cook for 20 minutes on a low simmer until all the water is absorbed.
2.) While the rice is cooking, prepare the seasoned vinegar. Warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
3.) When the rice has absorbed all the water, let it sit for 5 minutes, then add the sweet vinegar seasoning. Sift the matcha over the hot rice, then gently incorporate it with the wooden spoon.
4.) To make the rice balls, dip the ice cream scoop into a bowl of cold water, then scoop out the seasoned rice onto a large plate or baking sheet. For the sushi balls to all be the same size, pack the rice into the scoop and level it off.
5.) Place the toppings on each rice ball. Use a sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters to cut the toppings into pretty shapes. The toppings you add at this point will end up lying flush against the surface of the rice ball. Shape the rice balls by placing one in the center of a piece of plastic wrap lightly damped with water. Use the plastic wrap to mold the topping against the rice ball, using your hand to create a smooth surface.6.) Remove the rice ball from the plastic wrap and place on a serving platter. At this point, you can finish the temari with delicate finishes like capers, masago, furikake, or sesame seeds. Repeat steps 4-6 to create 20 sushi balls…enjoy!