This simple combination of rice, a small bit of filling, crisp nori sheets and a bit of soy sauce is actually quite delicious. Onigiri, or rice balls, are a regular thing for us for lunch or a snack. They make an interesting alternative to a sandwich for lunch and they are easier to put together than sushi. Because the nori (dried seaweed) sheets stay separate from the rice until you are ready to eat, they stay nice and crispy.
Use short or medium grain white or brown rice. You can fill the rice balls with anything you like, the most popular fillings being tuna and mayonnaise, or chicken and mayonnaise, diced cooked vegetables or pickles or small pieces of omelette.
Our plastic shaper is from a Japanese supermarket, but you can get them for a few dollars online (see an example here), in all different shapes and sizes. If you don’t have a plastic shaper, use your (wet) hands or a tea cup lined with cling wrap (see instructions here).
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 cups short or medium grain white rice
- nori sheets (dried roasted seaweed)
- Small amounts of fillings such as canned tuna and Japanese mayonnaise, cooked omelette, cooked chicken or vegetables
- soy sauce or tamari (optional)
1. Before you get started making your onigiri, cook some rice, either in a rice cooker or saucepan. We use Sunrice medium grain white rice. A Japanese friend taught us to add 20% more water than the rice cooker instructions suggest, because of the difference between Australian and Japanese rice. Allow the rice to cool and refrigerate until needed.2. Cut each sheet of nori (seaweed) into 3 strips, then wrap with cling wrap.3. Prepare the ingredients for the fillings. Mix some Japanese mayonnaise with chopped chicken or canned tuna (“sea chicken”). Or put whatever you like in the centre, eg pieces of omelette, pickled vegetables or plums, cooked vegetables, etc.4. To assemble the onigiri, first wet your plastic onigiri shaper (or your hands or tea cup), with a sprinkle of water. Spoon some rice into the bottom section of the onigiri shaper. Then spoon a bit of filling (not too much!) into the centre of the rice. Then, put some more rice on top.
6. Put the onigiri shaper lid on top, then press down. Take the lid off, turn the shaper upside down and press in at the small triangle until the rice ball pops out.
Note: because there is no preserving agent like vinegar or salt in the rice (which you would usually find in sushi rice), in the interests of food safety please store the onigiri at a safe temperature. Eat the same day.
Here’s an idea: use a permanent marker to write the filling type on the outside of the cling wrap so you won’t be left guessing what’s inside your onigiri when lunchtime rolls around.
Now you are ready to take your onigiri for lunch, to work or school. Enjoy!
Although it is quite possible to shape onigiri in your hands or a small cup, a plastic onigiri shaper makes the job a lot easier, and they only cost a few dollars. If you want to make a super cute onigiri for a lunchbox, you can get plastic molds in all sorts of shapes and sizes, like this one:
Or just a standard triangle, like the one I used in this recipe, such as this one:
- Try okonomiyaki, the Japanese style savoury pancake. Find our recipe in this post here.
- And here’s the recipe for a simple Japanese dinner in this post.
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