Onigiri, or a Japanese rice ball is a snack popular all over Japan. These rice balls are often filled with ingredients like pickled ume, salted salmon, or other salty or sour ingredients. These ingredients usually act as a natural preservative. The rice balls are usually wrapped in nori (seaweed) which makes these treats wonderfully portable and adds an additional salty flavor.
Despite common misconceptions, onigiri is not sushi. Onigiri is usually flavored with salt or other fillings while sushi is flavored with a sushi vinegar. that being said, the rice used is the same. You want short grain Japanese rice (also known as sushi rice to some). If you can’t get a hold of Japanese rice, Italian medium-grain rices like vialone or arborio (usually used in risotto) can be used. What matters is that the rice remains sticky and moldable. We filled our onigiri with simple pan-fried salmon, but feel free to experiment with your own ideas to find the perfect onigiri for you! Keep reading below for our favorite, simple onigiri recipe…
(makes about 6 servings)
- 1 small salmon fillet
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 3 cups cooked Japanese rice (rinse and drain at least two to three times before cooking)
- 6 pieces Japanese nori (dried seaweed)
- Place the rice in a mixing bowl and run under cold water while mixing the rice with your hands. Drain the rice through a strainer, then repeat the process at least two or three more times to properly wash the rice. Add to a rice cooker with 3 cups water and turn the rice cooker on.
- While the rice cooks, sprinkle the salmon fillet with salt, pepper, and parsley. Melt the butter in a skillet and cook the salmon skin-side down first for about 4 minutes on each side on medium heat. Remove the salmon from the heat and break apart with a fork to form small salmon flakes. Set aside.
- Line a small, shallow bowl (or Japanese teacup) with enough plastic wrap to hang well over the sides. Press the plastic down into the cup with your fingers.
- Sprinkle the inside of the cup with a little water, and shake the excess into the sink. Sprinkle the plastic wrap with a little salt, turning the cup or bowl so the sides get sprinkled too. Shake out any excess salt.
- Add about 2/3 cup cooked rice to the bowl, letting it sit loosely (no need to pack it down). Poke a hole in the middle of the rice with your finger about halfway down. Add about 1/2 tablespoon or so of the salmon flakes into the center.
- Lightly press the rice over the filling, then gather up the ends of the plastic wrap. Twist and squeeze, pushing out and excess air. Twist tightly to form a ball, squeezing to make sure the salt sinks into the surface and making sure the rice sticks together. Mold into the shape you like (perfectly round onigiri will be the simplest though many like the triangle look).
- Unwrap the rice ball from the plastic wrap and wrap one side with the onigiri. Serve immediately. To make for later use, keep the rice in the plastic wrap until ready to serve.
Recipe adapted from Noob Cook