Japanese people have enjoyed the onigiri for hundreds of years. Before the use of chopsticks became common, rice was often rolled into a small ball so that it could be eaten easily. Over the years it became popular due to its convenience and later a bento staple.
Traditionally onigiri are filled with; kombu (pickled seaweed), umeboshi (dried plum), katsuboshi (salted salmon) and tarako (cod roe). Still, the traditional fillings remain popular, but there is also a new generation of onigiri on the market, often with a Western influence, tuna mayonnaise being the most popular and perhaps the most bizarre, spam.
I’m sure in the future more weird and wonderful fillings will enter the ever-expanding world of onigiri.
When I’m back home in England I always miss onigiris. Tasty, filling, healthy and cheap, what’s not to love? In England I feel there isn’t an available alternative, which ticks the same boxes as the onigiri. Crisps? No. A cereal bar? Nah. A sandwich? No. A mars bar? Tempting, but no.
Although relatively healthy, like 99% of packaged food on shop shelves, onigiri are not exempt from unnecessary preservatives. Certainly true of コンビニ (convenience store) onigiri, however if you buy from an onigiri shop or stall in a department store, they may well be preservative free.
If you ask a Japanese person if onigiri are easy to make I am pretty sure they’ll say yes. They’ll tell you all you need is to wet your hands, put a little salt in your hands and voila. I tried this seemingly simple method and ended up with rice stuck to every speck of my hands. So I’ll be sharing my onigiri for dummies method.
The most popular shaped onigiri is sankaku (triangular), you can buy onigrir moulds to allow for easy shaping, but I’m going to share a simple trick with you, that doesn’t require a mould.
- White or brown rice (genmai)
- Nori (seaweed)
- Canned tuna
- Mayonnaise (I use low fat)
- Optional: wasabi
– Wash the rice under cold water until the water is clear. Cook in a rice cooker or in a pan. In a rice cooker it takes about 45minutes.
– Whilst waiting for the rice, prepare your filling:
– Drain the canned tuna well and mix with some mayonnaise in a bowl. The amount of mayo you use is up to you. If you like wasabi then add a little in for a nice kick.
– When your rice is ready, it should be nice and sticky.
Now you’re ready to get shaping:
– Instead of a mould, you can use a clear plastic/ Ziploc bag, cutting into a triangular shape.
– Cut into the measurements 7x10x7 (inches).
– Fill 2/3 of the mould with the rice with a wet spoon; press down so it fills the corner.
– Make a small hole with a sharp wooden stick.
– Fill the hole with the tuna mix, be careful not to put too much in, about 2tbsp should be enough.
– Then cover the hole with about ½ inch of rice.
– Press on all sides to make a triangle. Make sure it’s pressed well so that it won’t fall apart when you take the plastic bag off.
– Carefully take off the plastic bag and then wrap with a strip of nori (seaweed) from underneath.
Voila! Simple and delicious onigiri.