Onigiri are rice balls that can be made into the shape of a triangle or a ball and serve as the Japanese equivalent of a sand- wich. Onigiri rice is unseasoned and naturally sticky. Also called omusubi, they can be eaten plain with a wrapping of seaweed or stuffed with a variety of fillings. I learned how to make Stuffed Rice Balls from Akiko Nakajima, our neighbor who took me under her wing and helped me navigate life as a young working mother in suburban Japan. Akiko filled a bowl of water and told me to wet my hands. She then sprinkled a little salt onto my palm, before scooping hot rice from the rice cooker onto it. Ouch! I tried to mirror her hand movements as she pressed, rotated and shaped the rice into a perfect triangle. My ball, or what was left of it, was a blob and the rest of the sticky grains ended up all over the floor and me. We had a good laugh, but there was lots of rice left in the cooker and she wouldn’t let me off easy. By the end of the session my hands burned, but I managed to produce
a few onigiri that didn’t fall apart upon contact. This recipe is for rice balls stuffed with Spicy Tuna Salad (see below). I have provided several ideas for wrapping, stuffing, and sprinkling for a variety of options.
Prep Time: 30 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes
© 2021 Debra Samuels / Tuttle Publishing · Reproduced with permission.
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1 Have on hand a small bowl filled half way with water.
2 Scoop up about 1⁄4 cup of the rice and set it into a glass custard cup or rice bowl. With a spoon make a little inden- tation in the middle.
3 Add one tablespoon of the Spicy Tuna Salad. Now add another 1⁄4 cup of the rice to the top of that.
4 Lightly wet your palms. Sprinkle on a little salt. Turn the rice onto your cupped left palm (if you are a righty!). With even pressure mold the rice into a ball until it stays together. With your right hand cupped over the top of the rice press the rice together to form a ball. Apply enough pressure to keep the rice from falling apart, but not too much that will crush it. Rotate the rice forward with your right hand, 1⁄4 turn. Compress the rice ball again. Repeat several more times until a firm ball/triangle
has been formed. Set the ball aside on a tray. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining rice and tuna until you have 8 balls.
5 To cut the seaweed without using scis- sors, fold sheets of roasted seaweed in half, just like a piece of paper. Press the crease to ensure the sheets have separat- ed. You will hear a little crunching sound and have 4 pieces. Fold it in half again. You now have 8 pieces.
6 If you are serving immediately, set the seaweed under the bottom of the rice ball and bring the sides of the seaweed up onto the rice. e seaweed will adhere naturally to the rice. Make larger pieces of seaweed if you prefer to have more covering the surface of the rice. If you are serving later, you can wrap the seaweed around the rice at this point or wrap the cut seaweed in plastic wrap, then every- one can wrap their own. It will keep the seaweed from becoming too moist.
Spicy Tuna Salad
Drain the tuna in a colander to remove all excess liquid. Place in a medium bowl.
Add the mayonnaise, sesame oil and Sriracha sauce and mix well. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to use.
Other suggested fillings
Grilled Salmon, flaked into 1 in (2.5 cm) pieces
Pitted pickled plum (umeboshi)
1⁄4 cup (3 g) shredded katsuo + 1 tea-
spoon soy sauce mixed together
Wrap with Roasted Seaweed Shiso leaves
Roll in or mix with Commerical Furikake: Seaweed and Katsuo or Yukari (shiso and plum)
Sesame Seed Salt (goma shio): 1 ta- blespoon sesame seed + 1 teaspoon kosher salt (black sesame seeds or toasted white sesame seeds)