Ai Nihon 愛日本: Onigiri – Rice balls on the go

- May 25, 2012 - 0

With the economic belt tightening, homemade bentos are on the rise with onigiri is gaining its popularity. Whether it is homemade or bought from the convenience store, onigiri is simply a perfect meal for anyone on the go. Handheld and portable these rice balls are equivalent to Japan’s take on sandwich.

Onigiri, also known as omusubi, is unlike sushi as it is made with plain Japanese rice while sushi is made with rice, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Made up of simple rice balls shaped into triangle or oval shaped, Onigiri could be filled with anything from the classic tuna with mayonnaise, shrimp or beef filet to expensive variant such as ikura (salmon caviar). The deep fried onigiri similar to rice croquettes is simply irresistible. Its crumbly crust filled with savory mouth-watering filling is example of simple food at its best. All it takes is one bite of onigiri, one little nibble and you will be coming back for more.

Grilled onigiri is known as yaki onigiri that has an almost burnt rice crust with fluffy texture inside. For healthier options, onigiri also fits well with takana (pickled vegetables), negimiso (onion with miso) and beans filling.

The Yaki Onigiri at Chotto restaurant In San Francisco

As onigiri could be served as itself or placed together with bentos, it is a perfect snack that could be made well ahead for gatherings. Homemade onigiri can be made into elaborate creations with funny facial expressions for children as well as adults but simple versions are usually the best.

The popularity of onigiri floods all over Japan and worldwide. Typical convenience stores in Japan have a lineup of onigiri with a variety of fillings on shelf retailing from 100 to 300 yen each. There are also specialized kiosk and shops that prepare onigiri for those on the go. If you are lucky, you might spot onigiri sold in trucks or vans.

Click on the pic to get the recipe.

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