Hi, it’s Yuto (@sudachi.recipe) again.
What is Onigiri?
Wherever you’re from, there must be some lunch box dish right?
It could be sandwiches in some countries, maybe something else elsewhere?
In Japan, it’s safe to say that the most lunch boxy food is Onigiri Rice Balls. If you ever come to Japan, you could find it in supermarkets, convenience stores, bento shops…etc
You probably often see it in Japanese TV dramas, films and anime too.
Definition of Onigiri
So what is Onigiri?
It is literally cooked rice shaped into a triangle (sometimes cylinder or sphere)
The beauty of it, is the fact that you can put anything inside the ball.
So you can be very classic, creative or even over the top like putting fried chicken or steak in it! There’s literally no rule, anything goes!
Popular Onigiri Fillings
As it’s very a versatile food, people enjoy putting many kinds of fillings in onigiri rice balls.
The most popular onigiri filling ranking in Japan is:
- Salmon (鮭)
- Seasoned cod roe (辛子明太子)
- Hard cod roe (たらこ)
- Salted plum (梅)
- Seasoned konbu seaweed (昆布)
- Tuna mayo (ツナマヨネーズ)
- Seasoned bonito flakes (おかか)
- Seasoned rice (炊き込みご飯)
- Takana (高菜)
- Fried onigiri (焼きおにぎり)
As well as these popular ones above, there are creative (arguably) ones! Such as:
- Dried tomato
- Fried chicken
Origin and history of Onigiri
Onigiri is commonly and historically know as different names such as:
- Nigiri (にぎり)
- Nigiri meshi (にぎりめし)
- Musubi (むすび)
- Omusubi (おむすび)…etc
The origin is not so clear because the first possible trace of Onigiri goes all the way back to BC! Ridiculous right?
This could even be the most ancient Japanese dish!
Onigiri is very portable. That’s why in medieval times Onigiri rice balls were military supply food, and now it’s one of the most popular lunch box foods.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT RICE DO YOU USE FOR ONIGIRI?
It’s best to use Japanese white rice or sushi rice to make onigiri. The sticky texture means it will hold its shape. Long grain and brown rice doesn’t really work BUT some people do mix the sticky rice with brown rice or grains to make it a bit healthier. It might be harder to shape though.
DO YOU EAT ONIGIRI WITH CHOPSTICKS?
Nope! You eat it with your hands. We wrap the nori to stop the rice sticking to our hands but you can also just hold it in the plastic wrap if you don’t like nori.
IS ONIGIRI THE SAME AS SUSHI?
Onigiri is different to sushi. Sushi rice is mixed with sushi vinegar whereas onigiri rice balls are made with simple salted rice. They are also shaped differently, onigiri is bigger and uses more rice. Lastly the fillings of onigiri are wrapped in the rice. With sushi, fish or vegetables are usually placed on top or rolled in so that they are still visible.
HOW DO YOU KEEP THE ONIGIRI SOFT?
The best way to make sure you eat a soft and delicious onigiri, is to eat it on the day that you make it without putting it in the fridge. Saying that, some people like to prepare their lunch the night before but find that the rice has gone hard after being stored in the fridge. If you wrap the ongiri in plastic wrap, then again in a towel or kitchen paper, it won’t get as cold and so won’t become so hard.
Yaki-Onigiri Rice Balls (焼きおにぎり)
So how is Yaki-Onigiri rice balls are different from normal ones?
Yaki (焼き) means fried or grilled, so this will have a very different texture from a regular onigiri!
All you need is:
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
The rice is mixed with soy sauce and mirin and then the onigiri is shaped and fried in a frying pan. The inside stays soft whilst the outside becomes crispy.
Because of the extra liquid added to the rice, the rice becomes less sticky and tends to fall apart. To avoid making a mess, and to make your life easier, wrap the rice in clingfilm for this recipe. Then you can press the rice into shape a lot easier!
Other than the shaping, it’s actually pretty simple to make.
Check out our video for How to Make Onigiri Rice Balls At Home
Like crispy? Let’s try!Print
How to make fried Japanese soy sauce Yaki-Onigiri rice balls (焼きおにぎり)
- 660g Cooked Japanese white short grain rice (hot, 300g before cooking)
- 1 tbsp Soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Mirin
- 1 tsp Sesame oil
- 2 tsp Soy sauce
- First, cook your rice. Use short grain white rice, preferably Japanese sushi rice or something similar. You need the rice to be sticky so that it holds it shape. We recommend using a rice cooker or see how to cook Japanese rice on the stove here.
- Put the cooked rice into a big bowl and mix in 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp mirin.
- Mix well and divide the rice into 5-6.
- Wrap each piece in clingfilm and shape by pressing it flat and then forming 3 edges by pressing and turning. Make sure you press it tightly, because the rice is a bit wet from the soy sauce and mirin, it needs to be pressed more than a regular rice ball.
- Heat up the frying pan on medium high and add 1 tsp of sesame oil.
- When your frying pan is hot enough, unwrap the rice balls and add them to the frying pan.
- Fry for about 20 seconds and flip.
- Brush soy sauce onto the already cooked side and flip again.
- Continue to fry for 30 seconds and brush soy sauce onto the other side and flip once more so it’s facing down.
- Fry for another 30 seconds and they’re done!
- Eat hot or store in a lunch box.
Rather than using your bare hands, it’s important to use plastic wrap to shape the onigiri in this recipe. Because of the soy sauce and mirin, the rice becomes less sticky and needs to be pressed harder in order to stay together. If you use your bare hands it will fall apart and your hands will get messy too.
If you want to make them for tomorrow’s lunch you can wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge. To stop the rice from getting too hard over night, wrap the plastic wrapped rice ball once more in a towel or kitchen paper.
Practice makes perfect but if you’re having trouble making the shape, watch our youtube video or feel free to comment below!
- Category: Rice
- Method: Fry
- Cuisine: Japanese
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