Nov 20 2008
I <3 Japanese food. I adore sushi, and udon, and daikon – oh, daikon! – but, until recently, I never tried to cook it. Sushi in particular seemed far too difficult for the likes of this tofurky-sausage-fingered kitchen witch. Then I stumbled on to a bento recipe book, and the wonder that is onigiri.
In case you’ve never heard of it before, onigiri are rice balls, a common lunch food in Japan. Ever seen an episode of Pokemon where the characters stop to eat those not-very-sandwich-looking green-striped triangular sandwiches? Those are onigiri. Now, I don’t know why translators say “sandwich” in the show instead of the much more sense-making “rice ball”, but even in cartoon form, onigiri look pretty good to me.
What’s so good about a ball of rice? A) I like rice. B) the rice is most often filled with one of a few things. This recipe uses fried tofu, but you can also use umeboshi (salty plum paste), “tuna” salad, or daikon – oh, daikon! – or pickled ginger. You could even use the McDonald’s pickle-filled tartar sauce, if you were so inclined; really, onigiri is the ultimate in customisable food. So, pick your filling, and let’s go.
For the rice:
Sushi rice, brown or white
Small bowl of water with a tsp of salt dissolved in it
Onigiri moulds (optional; available at most Asian supermarkets)
Seaweed, cut into strips, optional
Black sesame seeds, optional
For the filling:
Half a package firm tofu, diced
Light miso paste, to taste
Fresh ginger, shredded
1 tbsp olive oil
Rice vinegar, to taste
- Wash the rice, then put into rice cooker as per package directions. Add a splash of vinegar – this helps makes the rice sticky enough to mould into balls.
- While the rice cooks, heat the oil over a medium flame, then add the miso, stirring to keep it from sticking.
- Add the tofu; fry until browned.
- Remove the tofu to a bowl; stir in shredded ginger and vinegar. Set aside.
- When the rice is done, flip the cooker off, and mould while still warm.
If using a mould:
Dip the mould into the salt water, shaking off the excess. Mound rice into the mould, making a small indentation with your thumb. Add filling, then cover with more rice. Close the mould.
Unmould the onigiri then, if using, roll in sesame seeds, of wrap with a strip of seaweed.
If using your hands:
Dip hands into salt water, shaking off the excess. Spoon a small amount of rice into your palm, then press hands together, as if forming a patty cake. Make a small indentation with your thumb. Add filling, then cover with more rice, and pat onigiri closed again. Holding one thumb in the centre of the rice, use the other hand to gently rotate the onigiri, forming a slightly flattened disc, then, if using, roll in sesame seeds, of wrap with a strip of seaweed.
Onigiri on teh tubes: