In 2003, I had a relaxing summer vacation. Or at least that’s what I called it, before I remembered that I was a newly-minted college graduate, and that regular people would just call it “unemployment.” But I needed a break, anyhow. It was a good summer, filled with junkyard hunts, drifting, eating Subbies, and hanging out in the Westwood arcade playing Daytona USA.
In any case, I ended up moving back home when my lease was up, and continuing my “vacation.” Then, one day, I got a call from my sister-in-law’s mom, asking for some help running one of her franchise sushi bar locations in Louisiana. As odd as that sounds, I found myself living in Hammond, LA for the next month, slinging cheapo sushi to college students from 7am to 6pm.
If that wasn’t odd enough, this particular location was inside a college student union, along with several other vendors behind the same set of counters. And when it was time to eat, well, I could choose whatever I wanted. One day, I decided to combine two of my loves: Cajun Fried Catfish, and Onigiri (Japanese rice balls). I grabbed a bunch of deep-fried cajun-seasoned catfish from “Home Zone,” the down-home Southern Cookin’ vendor. Then I packed the catfish into some abnormally large balls of short-grain Japanese rice, fresh out of our cooker.
The results? Friggin’ awesome. Like I said back in my 2003 entry on the topic, if the Japanese can use katsu (fried cutlet) in an onigiri, I can definitely make ‘em with southern-fried-anything.
And of course, I had to give them a name: Nekonigiri. (ネコにぎり)
You see, “neko” means “cat” in Japanese. And I love making terrible puns almost as much as I love onigiri! (Nobu says I make oyaji puns, like an old man). Of course, I usually get serious skepticism from anybody that I tell this story to. Especially people for whom the connotation of eating a “Cat” is too much to consider!
But in any case, seven years later, I believe I’ve found a restaurant that would be on the same page with me… Yo-Yo Sushi in Santa Clara…
Hell, I bet they’ve probably already made my other piece of Japanese/Southern fusion: The crawfish roll!
Sadly, I was on my way to see Avatar when I saw this sign, so I’ve got no review yet. But I will return to see if Yo-Yo Sushi will recreate the nekonigiri. Otherwise, if my patented off-the-menu coercion techniques (more on that later) don’t work, I’m making ‘em at home, and y’all can come over and get some!