Crispy Rice Balls

This month is special to me because my daughter was born on the 15th of March. She’s going to be 21 this year, which means (in California anyway) she can legally:
•Rent a car
•Buy weed
•Adopt a child
•Buy a gun
•Buy tobacco

Yikes, no wonder I’m losing my hair so fast! Who was it that said “With great power comes great responsibility?” I think it’s been credited to a a bunch of people throughout history, but most recently I heard it from Uncle Ben (you geeks know who I’m talking about). She’s got a good head on her shoulders though, so as a parent all you can do is trust your kids to always do the right thing.

To celebrate I wanted to make her some of her favorites. She loves takoyaki and yaki-onigiri, so I got to thinking I could take out the takoyaki pan and try a few things—maybe even to interest y’all?

So I realize not everyone likes tako, or octopus, but it would be a shame to never try the creamy goodness of this dish. In the past I made a few variations of takoyaki using this pan, but they used completely different types of dough in order to match the style of the dish. To me, the best part of takoyaki is biting into these tongue-burning little morsels. I double-dare you to pop one whole into your mouth right off the griddle. Here are a few variations you can try as substitutes for octopus, so you can still enjoy the original batter.

I’ve got 3 kinds of naniyaki here. Sorry, that’s my word for “what’s-in-these-yaki”. I’m not the first one to experiment with takoyaki fillings, but I might be the first to make up my own name for it. If you guessed hot dogs, cheese and kimchi, you get the pat on the back.

Here they are before they become totally unrecognizable after being dressed with sauce, bonito flakes (katsuoboshi), and mayo.

Now, the thing about takoyaki or any other form of it, is that it tends to taste all the same once you’ve topped it this way. BUT the hot dogs, cheese and kimchi all had their own flavor once you got to the insides, so I would have to say that this is great way to enjoy takoyaki without the octopus. What I should have done is go for the ketchup and mustard on the hot dog one—maybe next time. If you want to try more recipes using this takoyaki pan, Zojirushi has their own variations on their recipe page.

The English name for onigiri is “rice ball”, and indeed it is. But what about a literal “rice ball”? I tried this with a couple of pre-rolled rice ball variations. I figured there’s no way that grilled rice forms itself into a little ball like takoyaki batter does, but if it starts out as a ball shape, then the takoyaki pan can do the rest.

Here are my rice ball fillings: corn and rice blended with some shoyu and butter on the left, and a tuna mayo mixture with cheese, nori and scallions on the right. At our house, we sometimes mix tuna out of a can like this and eat it as a topping over hot rice. Trust me, it works.

This is coming along nicely on the takoyaki pan. I’m brushing it with shoyu+mirin glaze, and turning them over periodically. One warning if you do this—it took a long time to grill. Maybe I was too careful of not burning it so the temp was too low, but I think yaki-onigiri takes a long time anyway. Have you noticed how if you order it at a restaurant, it takes a while for the order to come?

Worth the wait. Tender and fluffy rice on the inside, grilled crispness on the outside. Yaki-onigiri in bite sized balls. What should we call these? Yaki-tama? Maybe this is already a thing—I don’t know. If you’re wondering, the tuna version was very, very good. The corn version could have used more shoyu glaze, but the combination was on point. I think they turned out pretty cute, and perfect for my daughter’s birthday lunch.


All photos and videos by ©2021 Bert Tanimoto

Zojirushi products used in this post:
Takoyaki Plate
Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-BDC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America



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About Bert Tanimoto

Oldish father (still) of two youngish (but now young adult) kids. Zojirushi enthusiast and professional writer. California resident with roots in Hawaii and Japan. Classic rock, popcorn movies, audio books, spam, sushi and cone filtered coffee. Guilty pleasures include donuts and pop bands like ABBA and Wham! Don't laugh, you should see my vinyl collection--I give hair bands and prog equal credit.

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