If you’re a sushi fan, you might have encountered this term at your local Japanese sushi restaurant. Inari, or Inari sushi, is a type of sushi that’s quite different from the usual sushi rolls you might be familiar with.
Inari sushi is made of sushi rice packed into pouches of seasoned, deep-fried tofu pockets. The tofu pockets are seasoned with a sweet and savory sauce, which gives them a slightly sticky texture and a taste that’s a perfect balance of sweet, savory, and a hint of vinegary tang.
In this article, you will learn more about its taste, how it’s prepared, and some interesting tidbits about this popular Japanese dish.
What Does Inari Taste Like?
The tofu pockets, known as aburaage, are seasoned with a sweet and savory sauce, giving them a slightly sticky texture and a flavor that’s a blend of sweetness, savoriness, and a mild vinegary tang. This flavor profile results from the tofu pockets being simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, a sweet rice wine commonly used in Japanese cooking.
The sushi rice that fills these tofu pockets is often seasoned with vinegar, which adds a subtle tanginess that complements the sweet and savory tofu pockets beautifully. The rice is slightly sticky, which is characteristic of sushi rice, and it carries the flavors of the tofu pockets well.
When you take a bite of Inari sushi, you’ll first notice the sweet and savory taste of the tofu pocket, followed by the slightly tangy and comforting taste of the sushi rice.
What Does Inari Compare With?
Inari sushi is quite unique, but there are a few other dishes that it can be compared with in terms of taste and texture:
- Sushi Rolls: Like Inari sushi, sushi rolls are made with vinegared rice. However, sushi rolls often include raw fish and vegetables, and they’re wrapped in seaweed instead of tofu pockets.
- Onigiri: Onigiri, or rice balls, are another popular Japanese dish. They’re often filled with pickled plum or cooked salmon and wrapped in seaweed. The taste of onigiri can be similar to Inari sushi, especially when they’re filled with sweet or savory ingredients.
- Tofu Pouch Stir-Fry: This is a dish where tofu pouches similar to those used in Inari sushi are stir-fried with vegetables and a savory sauce. The taste of the tofu pouches in this dish can be similar to the tofu pockets in Inari sushi, but the dish’s overall taste is savory and less sweet.
What Is Inari Sushi?
Inari sushi, also known as Inarizushi, is a type of sushi that’s quite different from the sushi rolls or nigiri that you might be familiar with.
Instead of being wrapped in seaweed or topped with raw fish, Inari sushi is made by packing sushi rice into seasoned tofu pockets. These tofu pockets, known as aburaage, are deep-fried and then simmered in a sweet-savory sauce, giving them a slightly sticky texture and a delightful flavor.
Inari sushi is typically served at room temperature, making it a popular choice for bento boxes or picnics. It’s also a common offering at sushi restaurants, where it’s often enjoyed as a snack or a side dish.
The tofu pockets are usually golden brown, often garnished with sesame seeds or a sprinkle of furikake for added flavor and visual appeal.
Variations of Inari Sushi
While the classic Inari sushi is a delight in itself, several variations offer a slightly different taste and texture experience. Here are a few of them:
Inari Sushi with Sesame Seeds
In this variation, toasted sesame seeds are mixed into the sushi rice before it’s packed into the tofu pockets. The sesame seeds add a subtle nutty flavor and a bit of crunch, contrasting the soft and slightly sticky texture of the tofu pockets and rice.
Inari Sushi with Mixed Rice
In some versions of Inari sushi, the sushi rice is mixed with other ingredients like chopped vegetables or small pieces of cooked seafood. This adds more flavors to the Inari sushi and introduces additional textures, making each bite a delightful surprise.
Inari Sushi with Furikake
Furikake is a Japanese seasoning made from dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, and salt. When sprinkled on top of Inari sushi, it adds an extra burst of umami flavor that perfectly complements the sweet and savory tofu pockets.
How To Eat Inari
Inari sushi is often eaten on its own, but it also pairs well with other Japanese dishes. It’s a common addition to bento boxes, and it goes well with miso soup or a side of pickled vegetables. The sweet and savory taste of Inari sushi complements the umami-rich flavors of these dishes, making for a well-rounded and satisfying meal.
Another way to enjoy Inari sushi is as part of a sushi platter. The unique taste and appearance of Inari sushi make it a standout addition to any sushi selection. It provides a sweet and savory contrast to the more delicate flavors of nigiri or sashimi, adding variety and interest to the platter.
And it can be enjoyed with a cup of green tea. The slightly bitter taste of the tea balances out the sweetness of the Inari sushi, making for a harmonious and enjoyable pairing.
So, whether you’re a seasoned sushi lover or new to the world of Japanese cuisine, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy Inari sushi.
Inari Sushi FAQs
How is the taste of Inari sushi different from other types of sushi?
While the subtle flavors of raw fish characterize many sushi types, Inari sushi is a vegetarian delight that spotlights the sweet and savory notes of seasoned tofu pockets and the tangy hint of vinegared rice.
What ingredients are used to give Inari sushi its unique taste?
The distinctive taste of Inari sushi comes from deep-fried tofu pockets and simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, a sweet rice wine. This process gives the tofu pockets a sweet, savory flavor and slightly sticky texture. The sushi rice, often seasoned with vinegar, adds a subtle tanginess that enhances the overall flavor profile of the dish.