Saturday, April 1, 2023

Onigiri Rice Balls

In February, my fiancĂ© and I attended a Let's Make Onigiri program at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Onigiri are convenient and tasty Japanese rice ball snacks. Ms. Masayo Kawaguchi from the Japan Society of Boston taught the class.

Masayo Kawaguchi

Ms. Kawaguchi began by discussing the history of onigiri, and she explained how onigiri differs from sushi, which more people are familiar with. While sushi is made with rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt, onigiri is prepared with plain or lightly salted steamed rice.

To make onigiri, all you need is Japanese short-grain rice, which is often labeled as sushi rice. It's important to use short-grain rice, because other types of rice, such as long-grain jasmine rice, will not stick together.

After you cook the rice, wet your hands with water so the rice doesn't stick to your hands, shape a handful of rice into a triangular shape with your hands, and you have a basic onigiri! 

There are endless ways to make variations of onigiri. Wrapping nori seaweed around onigiri is common, and you can add fillings to the middle of your onigiri before shaping it if you'd like. Popular onigiri fillings include canned tuna with mayonnaise, umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum), and okaka (bonito flakes mixed with soy sauce). Ms. Kawaguchi said leftovers are great to fill onigiri. Add some flavor to the rice if you'd like, such as by mixing in some salt or furikake rice seasoning. You can be creative by molding the rice into different shapes, and they even sell molds to make fun onigiri animals and characters.

Onigiri is best enjoyed at room temperature and the day it's made. Making onigiri is a lot simpler than I thought it would be! For some more reading and entertainment: