What the heck is musubi? This is what I said when I got an invite to a press event from musubi-makers, Mr Musubi. When I googled it, a lot of spam came up - and I'm talking about the gross lunch meat kind. Turns out that Japanese musubi are rice wrapped around a filling - kind of like sushi, but without the seaweed wrapping, and a whole lot bigger. Traditionally served as street food, they are pretty darn popular in their mother country. Mr Musubi have been selling them at Broadway Market on Saturdays, but throughout July will also be selling them everyday from 7pm-10pm at a pop-up in Off Broadway cocktail bar in London Fields. The invite said "have dinner and cocktails on us", so why not try Japanese rice balls I thought, and off I went with the delightful Emma from Bloomzy.
I'm so glad I went with someone else. I'm usually happy to stroll into press events on my own, but it soon became clear that this was not your average press shindig. I had assumed they would section an area of the bar off so that the press could chat with each other and have the samples brought to us. But it was just a standard pub night - you find a space to sit, and they will bring your order to you. That would have been a tad awks if I'd been on my own. The next awkward thing was that the bar staff had no idea there was a press night going on. When we asked what was happening they were baffled. Finally I met Mike and Tet, the guys behind Mr Musubi, and I ordered just vegetarian for me, and one of each flavour (beef, salmon, and mushroom) for Emma. When it arrived Emma had three musubis and I literally had one vegetarian - haaaa! Emma was very kind and gave me her mushroom one though. Extreme awkwardness came when the bartender charged us for the beautiful Japanese mojitos we ordered from the Musubi menu. I explained we were part of the press night, and she came back to say that Mr Musubi are not paying for any cocktails. Erm... it said on the invite have cocktails on us... and so did the reminder email that came the morning of the event. We weren't the only ones who had assumed this; we saw a few others not really knowing how to react to this disappointing vetoing of the free booze offer. No one arrogantly expects free drinks at a press event, but when it's in the invite - you kind of do.
Anyway, awkwardness aside, I have to tell you that the actual musubis are OUT OF THIS WORLD GOOD! They are fat triangles of the yummiest rice and marinated fillings. Side note: they are also kind of pretty. The mushroom one was so moreish! It came with a spicy dip and edamame, and Emma raved about the meat and fish varieties too. Mike (or Tet?) came over to apologise about the cocktail thing, and we didn't have the heart to tell him off as he was super sweet. He also offered us free dessert to make up for it - iced musubi pops on sticks. You choose from a range of gelato flavours and they come wrapped in a rice skin. They are weird as they sound, but were fun to try. I had mango and coconut flavour - both amazing! Emma went for mango and black sesame. I'd say Mr Musubi is well worth a visit to either the market or the bar where they are popping up. When it comes to the international street food war* Japan are the out and out winners!
* not a real thing.
By the way, Off Broadway is not a bad cocktail bar at all! And they have a cat who glares at people with contempt. He took up a whole bench that standing drinkers looked at longingly, and did not give a hoot!