Friday, 13 February 2015

Move over bread and butter: Make “rice sandwiches”

I have a friend from Taiwan. Whenever we go to her house, whatever the time of day, there is a constant flow of delicious and interesting foods coming out of her kitchen and into our mouths (which always makes my return offer of a cup of tea and a slice of cake – if I’ve got any – seem very pinched and English).

Our favourite time was the day her 6-year-old daughter opened the door and announced to my daughter, “You and me are making rice sandwiches today!” We had no idea what they were, but they turned out to be a whole lot of squidging, squodging, grunting, giggling, gobbling fun. 

Her mother explained they were a version of Japanese onigiri, but we loved the daughter's name for them and ever since that day we have been big fans of the "rice sandwich". 
They're a great kids' activity-and-meal-all-rolled-into-one for when friends come round to play or for a birthday party. They're also good for lunch boxes, picnics, gluten-free kids, or any old time you want a change from bread-and-butter sandwiches.

You need one key thing: A RICE MOULD (one per kid). These are bascially triangular containers (the deeper bits) with lids (the shallower bits). These 'double' ones were brought back from Taiwan for us by our friend, but it's easy to buy single ones online
This is what you do with them:

The 'outside' of the sandwich
Cook some ordinary long-grain rice in this incredibly quick and easy way that makes it come out sticky and oriental, not loose and separate like Indian rice. 

Put 1 part rice, 2 parts water in a saucepan.
Put the lid on and bring to the boil. 
As soon as it boils, turn to the very lowest heat.
Leave until all the water is absorbed (don't stir at all)

Simples! Leave it to cool. You can season it with salt and a few glugs of Japanese mirin (which will help make it even stickier) but it's not vital. 

The 'inside' of the sandwich
Prepare a choice of fillings for the kids to pick n' mix as they wish. As my daughter says, part of the fun is “You can choose ANY middle you want!" We usually use tuna mayonnaise, fine sticks of cucumber, grated carrot, pieces of ham, pieces of omelette  and dried shredded pork from the oriental shop which our friend introduced us to (tastes like meaty candy floss!)
But you could choose anything that goes in a conventional sandwich. You might want to draw the line at Marmite and peanut butter and jam  or maybe not? There’s no rules! 

Then just lay out the rice and the fillings for the kids and let the chaos fun begin! 

The sandwich making 
Spoon rice into each mould to over the halfway level (= the first 'slice of bread').
Put in the fillings. 
Spoon in a load more rice on top of the fillings (= the second 'slice of bread'). Put more rice in than you think – above the level of the top of the mould. It needs to be a really tight squeeze of compacted rice when you put the lid on, otherwise the rice sandwiches will fall apart when you take them out the moulds. 
Then put the lid on and push with all your might.
My daughter really enjoys this bit “'cause you have to push really hard and it’s all squelchy.” Use your elbows, your knees, your feet if necessary! 
Now take off the lid and gently push the little flap that is at the bottom of each mould to help ease out the sandwich. 
And dah-nah! Rice-sandwiches! 
A very satisfying moment. In my daughter's words again, “It's like that feeling when you're making sandcastles and you lift the bucket up and it's come out really good”. 

Finally ...
This is entirely optional, but if you want to be traditional you can wrap the sandwich in a piece of sushi seaweed before you eat it. (My daughter adores seaweed so much she’d probably scoop it straight out the sea and shovel it in her mouth, but it’s a bit of an acquired taste for many of us.)
Then dip it in soy sauce (if you fancy) ...
... and tuck in.

If you like this, you might like Make Bubble Tea.


  1. Yummmmm we want to do this ... Hate sarnies in our house ! N also loves seaweed !

  2. And seaweed has lots of good stuff in it!

    When I lived in Japan, people told me to eat seaweed because "it keeps your hair black" - as I had blonde hair, I presumed they meant stopped it going grey!

  3. What a great idea! Mini loves his bento box for school lunches - I wonder if he'd eat these in it?

    And thanks for linking up to #WASO x

  4. Oh yum. Fab for a gluten free meal idea too! Thanks for linking to #KidTested

    1. Yes, hadn't thought of that! One of the girls here is on a gluten-free diet.

  5. If you don't have the moulds, you can make them in large cookie cutters (just put a little water inside first so they come out easily :)

    1. I didn't know this - great idea - but how do you push down to squash the rice and make it hold together?