Onigiri, also known as omusubi or rice ball, is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori – which is the seaweed used to make sushi rolls. Traditionally, onigiri are filled with all manner of ingredients you’ve probably never heard of. Sushi like stuff. Because of the popularity of onigiri in Japan, most convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors. There are even specialized shops whose only products are onigiri for take out. It is however, definitely not sushi. If you’d like some more info on onigiri you should hop over here. Chances are they’ve answered any questions you might have.
Given that we’d made a whole ton of sushi rice the other night, we used that. If you were making this for yourself the best bet would be to just fire up the rice cooker or follow the directions on the package of rice that you have. Medium grain rice, just like sushi rice, is the way to go. Basmati, Jasmine, long grain rice – all wrong. There’s not enough gluten and it won’t stick together.
All manner of sweet or sour ingredients get stuffed inside these rice balls. From salmon to pickled plum, tuna, salmon, salted roe, and just about anything else. It’s fairly versatile. We decided that Teriyaki chicken might be a neat thing to try.
Dutifully I got the rice cooker out and I went through the same basic steps for cooking the rice that I did for the beginning of my sushi rice recipe. I’m not sure what you’d do with a pan. I’d be lost cooking rice in a pan, to be honest. Our cheap little $15 rice cooker makes better rice than it ought to and it’s far better rice than I’ve ever produced otherwise. This particular recipe/cooker combo calls for about 3 cups of water to 2 cups of rice. Fill the rice cooker, turn it on, cover, and walk away.
While your rice is doing its thing, you can delve into the chicken. There’s no mystery or excitement about my chicken process. I bought a nice package of free range organic chicken. The kind that produces rainbows, makes mother nature smile, and makes unicorns sing. Perhaps not but at least it’s mildly responsible stuff.
My Teriyaki solution is to use Kikkoman brand Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce. It’s wildly easy, comes in a bottle, and hey – it’s Kikkoman. They know a bit about Asian cuisine. To work nicely inside a rice ball the chicken has to be cut fairly small; let’s say about 1/4 of inch sized cubes. Don’t get out a ruler, but just be in the general vicinity of small chunks and you’re on the right path.
I seared (or sautéed) these for about 3 minutes in oil and then added 1/4 cup of the Teriyaki sauce and 2 teaspoons of Arrowroot (for purposes of thickening) until it reduced to a thick glaze. You needn’t use the Arrowroot, I’m wise to the fact that it’s not a common spice rack item. It’s great stuff but you don’t have to run out and get it. Flour or a little cornstarch will accomplish the same thing with similar results. Simple and easy, once the chicken is cooked and has a nice glaze on it, remove from heat and start assembly.
The easiest way I’ve figured out how to make rice balls is to use a small bowl. The ones that I make are roundish and an inch and half to two inches in diameter. Not huge but not little tiny things either. I line a small bowl with good quality plastic wrap. We have some freezer wrap that is the same stuff that restaurants use – it’s a giant roll and has the slider-cutting-thingy on the edge. Fantastic stuff. You need use the same stuff. Just don’t use something that will stick to itself, is too thin, or will annoy you on short order.
Lightly wet the plastic wrap then lightly salt it. Sprinkle in rice until full. Place the filling – in this case the chicken Teriyaki you just slaved hours over, then push the filling into the center of the rice mass. Draw up the plastic wrap around the ball, wrap it closed and twist it tight. Squeeze and shape as you see fit. Traditionally onigiri are triangular. Most I’ve ever seen are round or something close to that effect. You can safely shape it however you like without fear of angering a Japanese food God.
We had some Nori – Japanese seaweed – which we used to wrap little band around the outside. Aside from helping to keep the whole mass together it also looks nice – like a samurai rice ball. HIYA!! We also happened to have some toasted sesame seed type thing that comes in a bottle that might as well be Pikachu or some other ridiculous but cute non-animal. I happily forked over a few dollars for this because it was cute rather than any specific need for toasted sesame with seaweed. Makes a tasty onigiri though.
You don’t need a ton of rice or chicken to make a decent meal out of this. The same 2 cups of uncooked rice that we made for sushi will leave you a bit left over. We bought a bit under a pound of chicken. Altogether this netted about a dozen cute onigiri and a bit of left over rice and chicken for random grazing.
Depending on what you put inside and how much salt you use, onigiri will keep in the fridge for up to a few days. I wouldn’t stretch it too far, especially with fish. I wrap any leftovers individually in plastic wrap and just keep them in a bowl in the fridge. These make for really great snacks any time of the day – and they’re surprisingly filling. Equally good at breakfast or after a night of imbibing spirits. Yum!
For about a doze onigiri – which is a decent amount for two people with leftovers, unless you’re starving or have a huge appetite, you’ll need:
- 2 Cups of Uncooked Medium Grain Rice
- Enough Water to Cook Your Chose Rice
- About a Pound of Chicken
- 1/4 Cup of Teriyaki Sauce
- 2 Teaspoons of Arrowroot – (Or Flour Alternately)
- Water for Sprinkling Plastic
- Salt for Sprinkling Plastic
- Nori for Wrapping Onigiri (Optional)
- Toasted Sesame Seeds (Optional)