Good taste: the best inari in SF, plus next level recipes

Good taste: the best inari in SF, plus next level recipes

You’re watching Good Taste, a weekly look at the Bay Area food scene. This week we follow San Francisco’s love for inari, rice-filled sachets of baked bean curd, and serve up ideas on how to make your own with simple toppings.

Inari has long been a staple of sushi restaurants, but the humble rice-filled bean curd pouches got a lot more fancy in 2020, as Japanese chefs got creative with their takeout offerings and started filling them with premium fish and vegetables.

The first place I saw this San Francisco pandemic trend start was the high-end omakase spot the Shotawhich inari piled high with toppings such as lean fatty tuna, crab, crispy shrimp and mushrooms – and king crab and crystallized egg yolk inari is still an offering among the equally luxurious Kusakabe

King crab and crystallized yolk inari by Kusakabe

Recently, a dish of candied tuna “inari” with quinoa, farro verde and miso dressing appeared on the menu of State bird provisions† The inari is placed in quotes in this menu because the bag is made from a smoother byproduct of tofu called yuba; you can buy sheets of yuba made by Oakland’s hodo in places like Rainbow Grocery Store

Elephant Sushi’s Yummy Pockets with Spicy Scallops
Tuna poké bomb from Pacific Catch

This type of next level inari has different names depending on where you dine. For example, they are called Yummy Pockets at Elephant Sushithat just opened a third restaurant in San Francisco known as Poké Bombs on .’s 12 Bay Area Locations Pacific catch† Places like this are meant to be appetizers, but they can be quite substantial.

Smoked carrot inari from Vegan Sancha Sushi
Purple rice inari by Menya Kanemaru Golden Ramen

Inari is very easy and satisfying to make at home, and you should definitely give it a try. Inari age (fried bean curd) is readily available at grocery stores such as Nijiya Market and usually costs less than $5 for a dozen sheets, so it’s an economical choice. They’re quite delicate, so expect to tear a few along the way as you try to gently separate them to stuff with cooked rice. If you destroy something of the inari age, just eat it or put it on a salad.

Most restaurants use some form of sushi rice to make inari. Cooked Koshihikari rice is an excellent option, or you can experiment with a sticky grain like Korean purple rice, as chefs do at the new takeout. Vegan Sancha Sushi and the newly opened restaurant Menya Kanemaru Golden Ramen† I was inspired by that use of purple rice and made a version with Korean mixed grains, Rancho Gordo pineapple vinegar, and a little honey that tasted good for days; normally the shelf life of inari is quite short.

After your rice has finished steaming on your stove or rice cooker, mix ⅓ cup of rice vinegar and a few tablespoons of sugar (optional) while fanning the pot with a rice paddle and letting everything cool. Let the rice cool for at least 15 minutes before assembling your inari.

Inari age is usually less than $5 for a dozen in stores like Nijiya Market
Inari line-up of Tamara Palmer: Wasabi coconut, chili crunch, scallop, vegan bacon, avocado and tuna

Don’t overfill the inari era – leave room for toppings! Since the inari era is usually very sweet, you can go savory or sweet with what you add as a finishing touch. Some simple ideas to get you started: wasabi coconut chipschili crunch, raw scallop with a thin slice of lemon, crunchy vegan bacon from San Francisco startup Hooray Foodavocado with jalapeno and raw tuna.

Making inari at home is much easier than rolling sushi, with so many flavor options. Let your imagination run wild and have fun!

Find more food ideas for your kitchen on Tamara’s site California food