I ate my first rice ball (onigiri) in college, when my girlfriend Ayako whipped out two from her backpack and offered me half her lunch. I loved the simplicity of it. After one taste, I recreated it from memory, or so I had thought. I realized I packed mine too dense when I tried another rice ball at Oms/b.
A great rice ball holds together just enough to eat with ease, yet retains the characteristics of soft individual morsels of rice. At the simplest form, rice ball requires only salt, but having a well stocked spice rack, I put my seasoning to use. With the realization that I was not limited to salt and furikake, I went crazy with my shakers.
I use the same seasoned rice to make some sushi – get some variations in my lunch while using the same ingredients. Sushi post to come. Rice ball makes a convenient, no fuss lunch.
Rice Ball (Onigiri)
- 2 cups of short grain rice cooked with 1 ¾ cup of water in rice cooker
- 5 Tbs seasoned rice vinegar
- salt, to taste
- 1/8 tsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp dashi (optional)
- 1 1/2 Tbs furikake, seto fumi* (optional)
- 1 tsp sesame seed (optional)
- 1 tsp black sesame seed (optional)
*Seto fumi furikake (rice seasoning) is a mixture of seaweed, sesame, and bonito. The additional seasoning (dashi, sesame, salt, sugar) is repetitive, but I get to season to taste. There are many different flavors of furikake. The only flavor that I would not use as liberally is goma shio (salt and black sesame).
Rinse rice once and cook in rice cooker. When rice is done, add sushi seasoning, fluff the rice by folding, cover and leave it for another 15 minutes. Scoop rice into a large bowl -spreading it out, sprinkle in seasoning evenly, and fold.
Once rice is seasoned, we’re ready to mold it into triangle shape or pyramid shape.
Plain: Place a scoop of rice on to plastic wrap. Cover in plastic and shape rice with hands by cupping palms together and rotating the rice ball. Use very slight pressure. Wrap rice ball in separate smaller piece of plastic wrap. When ready to eat wrap it with a sheet of nori.
With Stuffing: Line small bowl with plastic wrap, fill bowl with a scoop of rice. Using your finger, poke a hole in the center of the rice, and stuff in the filling, then cover the top with a small piece of rice. Wrap the plastic around, and shape rice with hands by cupping palms together and rotating the rice ball.
Yields 6 rice balls
On Mixing Rice:
There is a technique to working with the rice. Spread it out. Don’t mash. Use folding or cutting technique.
I prefer to use my hands over using a mold to shape the onigiri. Hands can feel even pressure, molds squashes. I enjoy the sensory experience of cooking. In addition, I live in NYC – I have no extra space for gadgets.
Tip: Use plastic wrap to do the molding or plastic storage bag. I use a bigger piece of plastic wrap for molding, and I wrap the finished rice ball in a smaller piece of wrap (just enough to cover all the surface area). Waste not (or at least a little less).
Rice balls can be plain or it can be filled with tuna salad, chopped kimchi mixed with hot pepper, paste, dried Chinese shredded pork, pickled veggies or pickled plums. The options are endless. My default filling is Asian tuna salad.