Monday, February 28, 2011

ebi senbei (shrimp-flavored rice crackers)

My favorite version of homemade ebi senbei uses all mochi (glutinous) rice, is flavored with dried shrimp, and fried in oil to become puffy and crispy. The basic recipe can be adapted for different flavors and cooking methods. It's a great way to use leftover rice.

cooked rice (I use mochi rice, or a mixture of regular rice and mochi rice)....120 grams
sakura ebi (dried tiny pink shrimp)....3 tablespoons
a little bit of salt, oil

1. place cooked rice in a suribachi (ribbed mortar) and grind it with a surikogi (wooden pestle) till the rice is partly mashed. Add shrimp and grind a bit more, mixing shrimp into the rice.

2. Using a wet spoon, divide the partially mashed rice into 8 ~ 10 roughly equal portions. Lay them on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap that is about the size of your microwave tray. Place another piece of plastic wrap over the rice and press with your hand to flatten each portion to a tenth-of-an-inch thickness.

3. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap. Sprinkle the tops of the rice portions with a little salt. Cook in microwave for about 3 minutes at 500 watts to evaporate excess moisture.

4. Replace the top layer of plastic wrap over the rice and flip it over, so that the bottom layer of wrap (or wax paper) is on top. Remove the layer that is now on top, salt the rice once again, and cook in microwave for 2 ~3 more minutes.

5. Let the rice cool to room temperature, then cook the portions in hot oil for one minute on each side, or till the crackers are crispy and light brown. Remove from oil and drain in a wire net or on paper towels till cooled. The result is a light, air-filled, crispy senbei.

The senbei will cook most evenly and quickly if excess moisture has evaporated from the rice portions by sufficient microwaving and being left on the counter to air-cool. If the rice has been flattened unevenly, it will cook unevenly. Experiment to find out how much microwaving, and how much frying, will result in the kind of sembei you prefer.

A. Instead of shrimp, try mixing kizami-konbu (finely shredded kelp seaweed) into the rice.
B. Instead of frying the senbei in oil, grill it on a wire net over a gas fire or hot coals. Grilling results in harder sembei that has a dry crispiness some people prefer. Grilling may result in some burnt areas, but that can also be appetizing, so no worries.
C. Instead of sprinkling the rice with salt, sprinkle with sugar crystals for sweet senbei.