Onigiri is one of the best selling foods in Japanese convenience stores. It is a Japanese rice call that is often filled with savory filling. Due to it’s versatility, it can be compared to a sandwich in variety of flavoring!
Total Cooking Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Japanese Rice Balls nestled their way into my heart several years ago during my trip to Japan. As we were exploring Tokyo, it was always easy to satiate my hunger by popping into a convenience store and grabbing an Onigiri or two. And since I’ve come back to the US, I have missed the flavor and taste. So my hunt began to start making them myself so I could always have one of my favorite foods. While I know there are many possibilities for Onigiri from varying the type of rice to the fillings used, I will focus more on the fillings. But when it comes to Onigiri, the possibilities do feel endless!
The ingredients needed for Onigiri are quite simple. With no variations on the rice, plain sushi rice is all that is needed as well as some salt for flavoring.
For the fillings, I decided to use seared Tuna mixed with a coating of yum yum sauce and roasted red bell peppers with a coating of cilantro paste. I always like creating a vegetable only option! In the process below, I go through how I sear the tuna but that is not part of the recipe below.
There are many other options to use for fillings so feel free to get creative! Some of the tradition fillings found in Japan include: Tuna Mayo, Grilled Salmon Flakes, Pickled Plume (or Umeboshi), Salted Cod Roe, Seasoned Cod Roe, Dried Bonito Flakes, Kelp Simmered in Soy Sauce, and Grilled Salmon Cream Cheese.
The first step in the process for making Onigiri is cooking the rice as this step will take the most time. For this process, I would advise following the instructions that come on the rice.
Then it is time to prep the fillings. For the Tuna, I grabbed a tuna steak and coated each side with salt and pepper. Then I heated up oil in a pan, due to a lack of appropriate pans for this step, I ended up using my pan for Japanese Omelettes (Potential Recipe coming up?). When the tuna is put into the pan, a loud sizzling noise should be audible. I have often heard it compare to the sound of rambunctious applause!
Once the tuna has finished cooking, chop into small pieces and mix in the yum yum sauce. The sauce should provide a light coating for the tuna. I also prepped the other filling by chopping up the roasted red bell peppers and lighting coating them in cilantro paste.
Then comes the best part: shaping! After the rice has cooked and cooled, place cling wrap into a bowl to help shape the rice ball. Then put some of the rice into the bowl and create a well in the center for the fillings. Be careful not to add too much or it will bust right out of the rice encasing. Put some rice over the top (to become to bottom). Pulling the cling wrap out of the bowl, wrap it firmly around the rice and shape. I like to go with the traditional rectangular shape but any shape really can do the trick.
You then can take off the cling wrap and place the nori sheet on the bottom to create your beautiful Onigiri! They are so hard to resist immediately taking a bite!
LET THE RICE COOL!
Okay, so I’m impatient and I know this and sometimes it’s just a complete disadvantage for me. When I was first making the Onigiri, I did not let the rice cool before shaping them. If this happens, after shaping but while still in the cling wrap, throw the Onigiri into the freezer for a minute or two to allow it to go through a rapid cool.
- 1 Cup Sushi Rice
- 1 Tap Salt
- 1 Sheet Nori
- 4 Tbsp. Roasted Red Bell Peppers
- 1 Tbsp Cilantro Paste 4
- 4 Tbsp Seared Tuna
- 1 Tsp Yum Yum Sauce
- Cook Sushi Rice as per the give instructions on the package. This should result in about 2 cups of cooked rice. Let rice cool.
- Chop Tuna into small pieces. Mix with Yum Yum sauce until Tuna has a light coating
- Chop Roasted Red Bell Peppers. Mix with Cilantro Paste until Peppers have a light coating.If you wish to use other fillings, prepare them now and set them aside. See Notes for other options
- Prepare Nori Sheet in strips
- Place cling wrap over a bowl
- Put 1/4 of the rice into the center of the cling wrap and make a well in the ball.
- Place 1/2 of a filling (2 Tbsp. Tuna or 2 Tbsp. Red Bell Peppers) into the well in the rice and use the surrounding rice to cover the filling
- Wrap the cling wrap around the rice and shape ball with your hands
- Remove cling wrap and center nori on the bottom of the rice ball.
- Repeat until all the rice is used!
- Tuna Mayo
- Grilled Salmon Flakes
- Pickled Plume (Umeboshi)
- Salted Cod Roe
- Seasoned Cod Roe
- Dried Bonito Flakes
- Kelp Simmered in Soy Sauce
- Grilled Salmon Cream Cheese