Onigiri, also known as Japanese rice ball is a great example of how inventive Japanese cuisine can be. It is also a Japanese comfort food made from steamed rice formed into the typical triangular, ball, or cylinder shapes and usually wrapped with nori (dried seaweed).
Various Fillings for Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
Because of its popularity in Japan, all different appetizing flavors/fillings of onigiri can be found in Japanese convenience stores. You can even buy onigiri from speciality stores for take out.
At the time onigiri were first invented, refrigerators didn’t exist yet. So the Japanese came up with a method to keep the rice fresh longer by filling it with salty or sour ingredient as natural preservatives. That’s why salt is rubbed on hands when you make onigiri so that rice is kept safe for a longer time.
The most common fillings for onigiri in Japan include:
sha-ke (salted salmon)
umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum)
okaka (bonito flakes moisten with soy sauce)
kombu (simmered kombu seaweed)
tuna mayo (canned tuna with Japanese mayonnaise)
tarako (salted cod roe) – not in the picture
Nowadays onigiri fillings and flavors are more creative! It is an inventive way to use up any leftovers from previous dinner like Chicken Karaage and Shrimp Tempura. Some onigiri also use mixed rice Takikomi Gohan instead of plain white rice.
Formed into a compact form, these little rice balls make rice portable and easy to eat with hands.
You can enjoy onigiri for a quick snack, or as school/ work lunch or picnic food. They are also commonly included into bento boxes.
We’ve got an array of fresh onigiri at the market. Made fresh daily. So, if you’ve never tried it before, come by and try one! Check out our Onigiri board on Pinterest for more recipe inspirations.
per onigiri rice ball:
65g cooked japanese rice
1/4 sheet nori seaweed
pinch of salt
shiso perilla leaf (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)
tsukemono japanese pickles
Begin by cooking the Japanese rice according to your favourite method.
With a small amount of salt sprinkled on your hands, mould the rice into small balls or triangles approximately 8cm wide.
Create a small well in the centre of the rice and put in your choice of ingredients. Then mould the rice with your hands around the well to cover your filling completely.
Using a sheet of nori seaweed, wrap up your ball of rice.
Sprinkle some sesame seeds or cut up shiso leaves to put on the rice for a little extra flavour (optional). Enjoy for a snack or during lunch.
Tips and Information
– If you are not sure about making onigiri with your hands or handling hot rice you can use a piece of cling film to mould the rice. Alternatively, take a look at japancentre.com’s great collection of easy-to-use rice ball moulds. – Ingredients are enough to make one onigiri. To make more, multiply the ingredient amounts by the number of onigiri you wish to make.