A piece of onigiri and multiple pieces of plant-based "salmon" skin sit on a blue plate

Ochazuke with Yaki Onigiri and Plant-Based "Salmon" Skin

Native to Japan, chazuke, or ochazuke, is a dish in which hot tea or dashi is poured over a combination of cooked rice and a smattering of other ingredients including nori, salmon and various pickled vegetables. It also happens to be a favorite go-to comfort food of Chef Chayanin Pornsriniyom, a Plant-Based Chef-Instructor at ICE's New York campus.

Related Read: Meet Chef Nin

As is tradition, Chef Nin uses leftover rice for this dish, which she turns into yaki onigiri, which are rice balls that are stuffed and then pan-fried. 

“The broth is a combination of shojin dashi, a plant-based dashi, and genmaicha,” she says. “Savory, smoky and salty with lots of umami flavor is the name of the game.”

This dish also features a play on salmon roe (ikura), in which Chef Nin develops a flavorful kombu-forward dashi and adds vegetable juice for color. She goes on to explain how “the structure of the roe is created by a reverse spherification method." Specifically, “calcium lactate gluconate is added to the flavored liquid, and when in the presence of sodium alginate, a hydrocolloid refined from seaweed, strong gels [are formed], resulting in a small fish roe-sized sphere with the essence of the sea inside.”

Here’s how to make it at home.


Ochazuke with Yaki Onigiri and Plant-Based "Salmon" Skin

Serves 8



For the Onigiri (seared rice balls):
  • 100 grams sushi rice
  • 150 grams water
  • 3 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms 
  • 30 grams kombu
  • 4 grams salt
  • 2 pieces umeboshi, seeded
For the Shojin (Vegan) Dashi:
  • 1500 grams water
  • 30 grams dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 100 grams kombu
  • 3 grams fermented black beans
  • 2 genmaicha tea bags
For the Rice Sauce (for brushing):
  • 30 grams shojin dashi (see above)
  • 30 grams soy sauce
  • 10 grams mirin
For the Plant-Based "Salmon" Skin:
  • 2 large seaweed sheets
  • 3-4 spring roll wrappers
  • White sesame seeds, as needed
  • Water, as needed
For the Plant-Based "Salmon" Roe:
  • 30 grams kombu
  • 300 grams water
  • 4 grams salt
  • 5 grams sodium alginate
  • 1000 grams distilled water
  • 275 grams kombu dashi
  • 10 grams beet juice
  • 1 gram xanthan gum
  • 3 grams calcium glutonate


For the Onigiri Rice:
  1. To make onigiri rice, add sushi rice, water, shiitake, kombu and salt to a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled, reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let the rice sit for another 20 minutes. Remove the shiitake and kombu. Fluff rice to distribute the flavor and color evenly. When the rice is completely cool, it is ready to be used.
For the Shojin Dashi:
  1. For shojin dashi, add all the ingredients except the genmaicha and bring to a boil. Once boiled, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and keep warm. (Note: See "assembly and plating" instructions below for how to use genmaicha.)
For the Rice Sauce:
  1. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Reserve until ready to sear the rice balls.
For the Plant-Based Salmon Skin:
  1. Lay the seaweed flat on a cutting board and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Dip the rice paper in room temperature water for 10 seconds then lay it on top of the seaweed sheet — they will adhere to each other when dry. (Note: You might need to use more than one piece of rice paper per sheet of seaweed depending on the size.)
  2. Using kitchen shears, cut the seaweed/rice paper into a rectangular shape — no need to be precise — and let air dry or place in a dehydrator to dry completely. In the meantime, preheat an air fryer to 350°F. Once the seaweed/rice paper is fully dry, fry until golden brown and season with salt immediately. Reserve for garnish.
For the Plant-Based "Salmon" Roe:
  1. Add the distilled water to a Vitamix® and blend on medium speed to create a vortex. Add the sodium alginate to the blender and blend until it is a homogeneous mixture. Let rest in the fridge overnight to get rid of all the air bubbles in the solution. (The sodium alginate solution should be completely translucent when being used.)
  2. In a pot, add water, kombu and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes, strain and chill until ready to use.
  3. In a blender, prepare the calcium gluconate solution by adding the kombu dashi, beet juice, xanthan gum and calcium gluconate. Blend well and let sit overnight to eliminate air bubbles.
  4. The day of, pour the sodium water into a medium-sized bowl. This is to ensure the spheres have enough space between each one and will not stick to each other.
  5. Use a syringe to suck up the calcium gluconate liquid and slowly drop the mixture into the sodium alginate bath. Wait 5 seconds before gently stirring the bath with a slotted spoon without touching the spheres so the top part of the sphere gets a chance to touch the sodium bath and form a sphere shape.
  6. The spheres should form and be ready to be taken out of the bath in 1 minute. Use the slotted spoon to fish out the spheres and rinse in a water bath. Store them in plain dashi or water until ready to use.
For Assembly and Plating:
  1. Shape the onigiri by dividing the seasoned rice evenly using an onigiri mold. Fill half of the mold with rice, then add a pea-sized amount of umeboshi in the middle and top with more rice until the mold is full and press the onigiri. Unmold and pan-fry the onigiri on a lightly oiled nonstick pan over medium heat. After 4 minutes of searing, brush with the rice sauce and turn over to continue searing on the other side, careful not to burn the sauce. The rice should be golden brown and crispy on both sides.
  2. Prepare the broth by steeping the genmaicha tea in the warm dashi for 3 minutes.
  3. To serve, brush the rice onigiri again with rice sauce. Place in a bowl and pour in the tea broth. Top with plant-based "salmon" skins and the plant-based "salmon" roe.

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