Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) are a beloved food in Japan. They can come in many shapes, but in Japan you’ll most often find triangle-shaped onigiri. They are easy to find, you’ll see them in almost every konbini (convenience store) in Japan. They are one of my favorite snacks and I’m always grabbing one on the go in Japan. My son loves them, too, so I regularly send him off to school with one. Plus, they are so versatile, you can add so many different fillings. It’s a great way to use up leftovers such as a piece of cooked salmon, lightly flaked, and seasoned with soy sauce and mayonnaise. But truthfully, in my home, I usually do not add fillings, I just opt for lightly seasoned rice mixed with sesame seeds.
Most importantly…to make great onigiri, you’ll need to use great rice and nori.
- Lightly season the hot rice with sea salt and mix gently, being careful not to break the rice.
- To form Onigiri at home, I use a plastic onigiri mold, but it is not necessary.
To make Onigiri with a mold, dip your hands in room temperature water and take about half a cup of the rice and press into a ball. Firmly push the rice ball into the mold. Next, press the top on the mold, then pop the rice ball out. It’s that easy.
- If you do not have a mold, there are alternative ways to form onigiri.
- You can use your hands (always making sure to dip in water between steps). Make a ball, pressing tightly, then with the ball in one hand, take the palm of your other hand and press to flatten it. Then using your index finger and thumb, press the sides together, making a shape of a hockey puck. Continue this technique until you have a firm, hockey puck-shaped onigiri.
- Another common way is to start by making the initial firm rice ball by hand, then simply tightly wrapping it in plastic wrap, but I usually do not recommend this method because it often yields a lopsided shape.
Now for the fun part: the fillings! You can add umeboshi, pickled konbu, tuna salad, salmon, or really anything, etc. To do this, you take half the amount of rice in your hand (or mold). Add the filling to the center, cover with the remaining rice then proceed with one of the above methods to finish the onigiri.
- Regardless of your shape, wrap each onigiri with a piece of nori (matte-colored side against the rice) and enjoy.