As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we went to Japan for about 4 weeks three years ago. It certainly isn’t a cheap country to travel in, so for breakfasts, and sometimes even for a small lunch, we would often go to the 7/11. This isn’t as shameful as you may imagine. At lunch time, they were always packed with local business people getting a quick and tasty lunch (7/11 sushi in Japan is better than most sushi restaurants elsewhere! I swear!).
One of our favourite things to get were triangular rice balls, wrapped in nori, with a variety of fillings (called ‘Onigri’ but we didn’t know that at the time). Since I don’t eat meat, and all of the packaging was in Japanese, I was very lucky that the rice balls were all colour coded. I soon learned that the blue ones were safe and were filled with canned tuna and mayonnaise. Other varieties included pickled plum, beef, and roe. I know that this might sound very strange, for breakfast no less, but they really were great snacks- light but filling and cheap as hell.
When we got home, I decided that I wanted to recreate them. It seemed simple enough and like a fun project. Besides, I couldn’t stomach western breakfasts after spending three and a half months in Asia and was missing my triangular friends! The first time that I made them, I recreated the triangular shape but it is much more fiddly and it all tastes the same, whether in a ball or a triangle, so I went with the simpler option this time.
The trickiest part about making these rice balls is the assembly. Sushi rice is meant to be sticky so it's pretty important that you keep a bowl of cold water next to you at all times while you're putting these guys together. If you wet your hands before you handle the rice, it will make your life a lot easier! Also, it's important to get a good filling to rice ratio. It's easy to pack on a lot of rice, but the filling is where all of the flavour is, so just don't be afraid to have a bit of it sticking out, it will all stay together thanks to your sticky rice.
Make sure to taste your filling to make sure that it has a decent amount of pickle in it. The sour taste is really great in making the flavour of the filling pop and to give it some freshness.
If you're going to be keeping them in your fridge for a couple of days, you may want to consider wrapping them in nori just before you eat them, to make sure that the seaweed paper is still crunchy!
Rinse sushi rice and cook it according to package instructions.
While the rice is cooking, drain the tuna and mix with the green onion, pickle and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the rice is ready, season with some salt and wait until it is cool enough to handle.
Prepare your nori by cutting them into strips approximate 2-3 inches wide.
Fill a small bowl with some cold water. Dip your hands in the water before touching the rice, this will ensure that the rice won’t stick to your hands and makes it much easier to handle.
Take a small handful of rice and pat it down in your hand until its a flat disc, about 3 inches diameter. Put a bit of wasabi and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the tuna mixture. Add enough rice to cover the tuna, shape into a ball.
Place your rice ball on your nori strip and fold it up and around the rice ball.
If you are saving your rice balls for a later time, you can wait until the last minute to add the nori, to ensure that it remains crispy.
Rice balls should be refrigerated and keep for a few days in the fridge. They are best eaten fresh.
Onigri Recipe was last modified: June 7, 2013 by