Onigiri Love for Japan (Japanese Rice Balls)

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) I recently spent a few days in Los Angeles at the Natural Products Expo with my friend Stacey and the company she works for.  She had invited me to go as a Brand Ambassador for her company and to tweet for them while I was there.  This was the first time I had ever been to such a show and Stacey had told me there would be many Japanese food vendors there that I could meet so I was very excited.  On our first day at the show we spent hours setting up the booth, laughing and having a great time.  The weather was sunny and warm in Los Angeles and I was happy to get out of the Seattle rain for a short time.

When we finished working at the Expo the first day we returned to our hotel room at eleven o’clock and I immediately called my husband to tell him about my day.  When he picked up the phone the first thing he asked me was if I had seen the news.  I didn’t have time to watch television or even tweet that day so I had no idea that Japan had just suffered a massive earthquake and devastating tsunami.  I quickly turned on the television and watched in horror as I saw whole towns being swept away in a matter of minutes by the giant tsunami.  My heart sunk and I started to cry.  This can’t be happening to my beautiful Japan.  The country where I spent twenty five years of my life.  The country where I met the most amazing man who would later become my husband.  The country I love with all my heart and consider to be my home.  But it was happening and I was feeling so helpless being over here in the United States, so far away from friends and family.

The few days following the earthquake I just tried to spend my time tweeting important earthquake information and really not thinking about food, cooking or my next post.  Even though I blog about Japanese home cooking It didn’t seem appropriate to tweet a photo of what I was eating or post a new recipe when Japan was suffering so much.  As I watched the Japanese news a few days after the earthquake I saw relief workers handing out Onigiri to the survivors in the shelters.  That small triangle of rice and toasted seaweed was bringing them just a tiny bit of comfort during this horrible tragedy.  I decided at that moment that Onigiri would be my next post.  Onigiri, a perfect meal you  make with your hands and something that always makes me smile.  I know in my heart that the people of Japan are strong and will get through this.  They are in my thoughts and prayers every day and this post is to celebrate their wonderful spirit.

Onigiri, Japanese Rice Balls (makes 2 Onigiri)

1 teaspoon good quality fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups hot, cooked Japanese white rice, stovetop cooking method below (I make my rice in a rice cooker then unplug it and open the top, fluff the rice and let it cool for about 10 minutes before I make my Onigiri so it’s still hot but not too hot to handle with your bare hands)
2 strips of toasted nori seaweed (cut into 2 inch strips)
Small mixing bowl, filled halfway with water to dip your hands
Small kitchen towel, dampened
Optional Onigiri fillings:
Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums)
Shibazuke (a mix of pickled cucumber and eggplant, sold at most Asian markets)

Directions:

1.  Set up the mixing bowl filled 3/4 full of water and the damp kitchen towel (rolled up) in front of the bowl and a small dish with the sea salt.

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) prep 1

2.  Dip both of your hands into the water and pat them on the towel to get the excess water off of your hands (You do not want your hands dripping with water, this will make a soggy Onigiri).  Grab a pinch of the sea salt, place the salt into one hand and rub your palms together to make sure the salt is evenly distributed.

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) prep 2

3.  Grab half of the rice and gently, but firmly, press the rice into a ball first and then start shaping it into a triangle with your hands.  If you have a problem getting it into a triangle shape you can leave it in a ball shape.

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) prep 3

4.  With your thumb create an indentation in the center of the rice triangle.  Place a piece of the Umeboshi or Shibazuke into the hole.  Pat the rice over the hole to encase the filling.  Repeat with the remaining rice.

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) prep 4

5.  Wrap each Onigiri with a piece of the nori right before you eat it so it won’t get soggy.

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) prep 5Recipe for Japanese Steamed White Rice

To make 2 cups of cooked rice

1 cup Japanese white rice (medium-grain)

1 1/4 cups water

In a heavy saucepan, rinse the rice well, messaging it with your hands and pouring out the cloudy water and adding fresh water until the water is almost clear.  Drain water well after the final rinsing.

Add the water to the pan, place over high heat and cover the pan tightly.  Bring to a boil (the lid will start to bounce, that’s how you know it’s boiling inside) then immediately reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid is completely absorbed, about 15 minutes (it helps to have a pot with a glass lid).  Remove the pot from the heat and leave the rice covered in the pan for an additional 15 minutes (Do not remove the lid while doing this).  With a rice paddle or spoon fluff the rice.

Onigiri Love for Japan (Japanese Rice Balls)
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon good quality fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups hot, cooked Japanese white rice, stovetop cooking method below (I make my rice in a rice cooker then unplug it and open the top, fluff the rice and let it cool for about 10 minutes before I make my Onigiri so it's still hot but not too hot to handle with your bare hands)
  • 2 strips of toasted nori seaweed (cut into 2 inch strips)
  • Small mixing bowl, filled halfway with water to dip your hands
  • Small kitchen towel, dampened
  • Optional Onigiri fillings:
  • Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums)
  • Shibazuke (a mix of pickled cucumber and eggplant, sold at most Asian markets)
  • Ingredients for Japanese Steamed White Rice
  • 1 cup Japanese white rice (medium-grain)
  • 1¼ cups water
Instructions
  1. Set up the mixing bowl filled ¾ full of water and the damp kitchen towel (rolled up) in front of the bowl and a small dish with the sea salt.
  2. Dip both of your hands into the water and pat them on the towel to get the excess water off of your hands (You do not want your hands dripping with water, this will make a soggy Onigiri). Grab a pinch of the sea salt, place the salt into one hand and rub your palms together to make sure the salt is evenly distributed.
  3. Grab half of the rice and gently, but firmly, press the rice into a ball first and then start shaping it into a triangle with your hands. If you have a problem getting it into a triangle shape you can leave it in a ball shape.
  4. With your thumb create an indentation in the center of the rice triangle. Place a piece of the Umeboshi or Shibazuke into the hole. Pat the rice over the hole to encase the filling. Repeat with the remaining rice.
  5. Wrap each Onigiri with a piece of the nori right before you eat it so it won't get soggy.
  6. Preparation for Japanese Steamed White Rice
  7. In a heavy saucepan, rinse the rice well, messaging it with your hands and pouring out the cloudy water and adding fresh water until the water is almost clear. Drain water well after the final rinsing.
  8. Add the water to the pan, place over high heat and cover the pan tightly. Bring to a boil (the lid will start to bounce, that's how you know it's boiling inside) then immediately reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid is completely absorbed, about 15 minutes (it helps to have a pot with a glass lid).
  9. Remove the pot from the heat and leave the rice covered in the pan for an additional 15 minutes (Do not remove the lid while doing this).
  10. With a rice paddle or spoon fluff the rice.

 

Comments

  1. Oh Shirley, a big hug to you. It’s true, after watching the news unfold.. it’s hard to be happy when so many are suffering. I love how simple the onigiri is yet so comforting. Thank you for sharing with us newbies how it’s done correctly.. and with so much heart. My thoughts and prayers to Japan. I know they will come out of this, stronger than ever. xo

  2. What a timely and fitting post. Something as simple as hand-molded rice can bring a lot of comfort because it’s made with love. Thank you for sharing your story. Strength to Japan.

    • Thank you Sheri. It was really difficult to decide what recipe to post after the tsunami. Everything I make brings back so many great memories of Japan.

  3. So beautiful post Shirley. Lately I’ve been struggling to express myself and find good words for everything I feel. It is difficult, no matter how I try. I wanted to say good words to uplift spirits and bring comfort…
    I offer my hug. And I would handle you an onigiri too. I think it would explain enough.
    *still thinking of Japan*

    • Thank you for your kind words. I had a very hard time deciding on this post and writing it but it helped me get my feelings out. I think Onigiri was the perfect thing to do to. I just wish I could be over in Japan making Onigiri for the survivors.

  4. What a beautiful post. I know how you feel i used to live in S. Korea for many years and went to Japan often. I had to turn off the TV because i could just not watch anymore. Love the Japanese rice balls.

  5. Thank you so much for your nice comment. I really appreciate it and thinking positive thoughts 🙂

  6. I like this Onigiri Recipe, very simple and easy-to-follow. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  7. Can you message me with any hints on how you made this blog look this cool , I would be thankful!

  8. Im so sorry and I feel your pain. I hope all turns out well for you.

    • Thank you so much Jen! Tokyo is getting back to normal now and it was great to be back there for cherry blossom season. I think everyone needed that after not celebrating last year because of the earthquake and tsunami.

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