Onigiri - The Perfect Picnic Food
The summers in Tokyo are short and lasts just a couple of months and comes right after the long and dreary rainy season has departed. So it's no surprise that everyone starts to get a little excited, anxious to once again, go outdoors to enjoy the clear blue skies.
A picnic at the park is one of those pleasures that remind us that sometimes, the best things in life are the simplest things. It's really one of my favorite things to do especially during beautiful weather like today.
Often times, I'd put in maximum effort and perhaps go a bit overboard, by baking an entire pie to take along. But for an impromptu picnic like today, nothing beats the humble Onigiri, the traditional Japanese rice ball.
Writings dating back from the 17th century reveal that many samurai stored rice balls wrapped in bamboo sheath as a quick lunch during war.
Step-by-Step Instructions on How To Make the Perfect Onigiri
The Onigiri is the original Japanese fast food. In other words, it's considered to be the ultimate portable take out food as well as the comfort food of many Japanese.
To make these handy balls of rice, simplicity is what it's all about. However this also demands that each ingredient be the highest quality to ensure the best taste.
Since rice is the main event, this is one instance where using good Japanese rice (medium-grain Calrose is a good alternative) is of utmost importance. Long-grain rice is usually too dry and doesn't have the stickiness, necessary in making Onigiri. You can also opt to watch the video tutorial to make it easier for you. Believe me, watching the video will make your life easier.
4 cups cooked rice
2 sheets nori cut into 6 strips
6 tablespoons filling of choice
Cook the rice according to manufacturer's instructions.
Make sure you have all ingredients ready. Here you see the rice,
nori sheets, ume paste, salt and a small bowl of water.
Wet both hands slightly but not too much. You don't want your hands dripping.
This is to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.
Dab a little bit of salt to both hands.
Make sure there is salt on both hands. A little goes a long way here so don't overdo it.
Scoop 1/6 of the rice mixture onto your hands.
Gently make a slight indentation with your thumb creating a well.
Add no more than 1 tablespoon of filling into the well. If you add too much, the rice ball
will easily break apart.Cover the filling by pushing the surrounding rice into the center
With one hand flat and the moving hand in a V-shape, roll the rice ball around, pressing
firmly with your hands so that the rice kernels stick to each other. This creates a
sturdy Onigiri. Try to get it to resemble a triangular shape.
Place the rice ball onto the center of a nori strip.
Bring both sides of the nori strips up to meet the rice, where it should naturally stick.
If you are a fan of Japanese food, or if you simply like rice, a rice cooker is a must. I always recommend a bigger size that makes at least 5 cups as it's easier to feed a family this way.
This model includes automatic keep warm, an easy to clean interior as well as the ability to steam vegetables and bake cakes!
Experiment and Have Fun
For these rice balls, I stuck with tradition and used Ume ( pickled plums ) paste. Feel free to experiment with fillings of your choice. Whatever you use, keep the amount to just a teaspoon or else the rice balls will collapse. Here are some suggestions.
Packing them up for picnicking is easy too. Just wrap them individually in plastic wrap, or place them neatly into lunch boxes. The great thing about Onigiri is that it goes well with everything!
- Minced Japanese pickles
- Tuna salad
- Crab and avocado
- Egg Omelette
- Chicken teriyaki
This collection of 50 recipes will guide you to making the perfect rice ball for picnics, lunch or a light afternoon snack.
Check out this cookbook full of great onigiri ideas.