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This is the first how-to and recipe that I posted on Just Hungry.

Properly cooke d rice is the foundation of a traditional Japanese meal, and you absolutely cann ot skimp on the steps detailed here if you are aiming for anything approaching a uthenticity. I've edited the text to make some things clearer. Back to basics! O riginally published in November 2003. Rice is the staple of Japanese food, and making it just right can be rather diff icult if you don't know how. If you think you will be preparing rice regularly, an electric rice cooker will make your life so much easier. (See About rice cook ers.) You can cook non-Japanese style rice and other grains in a rice cooker too . Japanese rice, or japonica rice, is a very particular variety. For traditional J apanese dishes you simply cannot substitute long-grain rice, jasmine rice, basma ti rice, Carolina type rice, and so on. I sometimes hear people saying things li ke "But I can make onigiri with jasmine rice just fine, as long as I cook it so it's mushy and the grains stick together". No no no no no. A good onigiri, a goo d sushi roll, a good nigiri-zushi, and most of all a good bowl of rice are not m ade from crushed, watery, mushy rice; they are made from slightly sticky grains of rice that are gently pushed together. In addition, jasmine rice and other typ es of rices have a flavor that is utterly different from that of japonica rice. If you serve plain jasmine rice with a Japanese meal, it will simply taste wrong . The one non-japonica variety that does work fairly well sa a substitute is Itali an vialone rice, which is a medium-grain rice similar to japonica rice. Arborio, carnaroli and the rice sold as 'pudding rice' or 'milk rice' in some countries are also medium-grain, but they tend to have too much rice starch, which is what makes that creamy texture in risotto or rice pudding. Vialone has less of that starchy coating and therefore works well. See Looking At Rice for more informati on about different types of rice. Ideally, the rice should be quite fresh. The best rice is new rice called shinma i, purchased within 3 months of harvest. Unfortunately, it's just about impossib le to buy rice that fresh outside of Japan. Just buy the best rice you can affor d. Once you learn how to make rice properly, you will really taste the differenc e between different kinds of rice. Some popular 'first grade' Japanese rice varieties include Sasanishiki, Koshihik ari and Akita Komachi. They tend to be expensive. Recipe and Procedure: Japanese style plain rice The washing and rinsing steps may seem like a bother, but they are absolutely cr itical to producing properly cooked Japanese style rice. Do not skimp on this! T his is a common mistake made by people new to Japanese cooking. To make 4 cups of cooked rice, you will need: A heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, or an electric rice cooker 2 cups of uncooked japonica rice or 'sushi rice' (or substitute Vialone) 2 1/4 cups of water (If using a rice cooker, add water up to the specified level marked in the inner bowl) Measure out the rice carefully into your pot and rinse vigorously under running water. Swish the rice around with your hands - the water will turn a milky white color. Drain the cloudy water away and add fresh water, and swish the rice around again . Repeat this step 2 - 3 times.

it might even start to ferment! (Some rice howtos emphasize the importance of soaking. and salt. remove it from the heat and drape a cloth over the pan f or about 10-15 minutes to let it fully absorb the moisture and rest. You can al so use a large serving plate or a bowl. Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve and leave for a little while. A good rice cooker includes this resting time in the cooking cycle. and also allows for condensation to evaporate. Add the water to the rice. bring to a boil over medium heat then put on a tight fitting lid. though that won't have the moisture-abso rbing quality.Drain. rice cookers come with a rice pad dle. Put rice in a rice cooker or pot. (Don't open the lid to peek! ) Turn up to high heat for a few seconds to get rid of any excess moisture if ne cessary. You also need a sturdy rice paddle or spatula. . Substitute cooled dashi stock for the water. then reduce to low heat for about 10 minutes or until the water is completely absorbed.) Brown rice however does need to be soaked before cooking (see cooking brown rice). preferably a wooden one m ade for this purpose called a hangiri. and rub the grains together several times wi th the palms of your hands gently as if you were polishing them. Cook on hig h for 1 minute. And if the weather is too hot. turning it into sushi rice (shari) just requi res a few more steps. You will need a large bowl or plate for the next step. but I think the washing and rinsing is the most critical part of making proper rice. This final step really makes a difference if you want grains that stick together but are no t mushy or watery. preferably at least 30 minutes. you can calculate in the soaking time here. leaving just a little water. Add plenty of fresh water and rinse out the rice. Cook as per the above instructions.) If you are using a po t. the longer it needs to soak. which is why it's described in so much detail here. Soaki ng for at least 30 minutes to an hour is generally recommended. but don't soak f or more than 8 hours or so or the rice will get a bit watery and lose any flavor . rice vinegar. If you are using a rice cooker. The length of time depends on the quality a nd freshness of the rice. You can buy a hangiri at any Japanese kit chen equipment store. Drain and rinse until the wate r is almost clear. so you don't need the clot h draping step. just switch on (or if you need the rice later. and cook for another 4-5 minutes until you can see the surface of the rice. The older the rice. Sushi rice Once you have mastered plain rice. At this point you s hould let the rice soak for a while. s et the timer. Sushi rice (called shari by sushi chefs) is rice that is f lavored with dashi. and even from Amazon. If you are using a pot. The advantage of using a wooden hang iri is that the untreated wood absorbs excess moisture from the rice. then reduce the heat to medium.

1/2 ta blespoon of mirin. do not refrigerate your rice if you can avoid it. [Edit: another word for onigiri is omusubi.coo l but not cold fish on top of the barely warm sushi rice. the texture and flavor rapidly deteriorate when it's chilled. sake or sweet brandy. turn and mix the rice.] Onigiri can stand on their own. wrap it up while it's still a bit warm in plastic wrap b efore refrigerating. an d therefore are very popular for carry-along lunches. ONIGIRI Onigiri (rice balls) posted on 1 Dec 2003 by maki :: 162 comments [Update:] Be sure to check out my easier. and has cooled down to about body temperature (it should be just a bit warm to the touch). rapidly fan the rice to cool it as quickly as possible. Chances are your answer is already there! Have a qu estion about what kind of rice to use? See Looking at different types of rice.Take 1/4 cup of bottled or homemade sushi vinegar (sushi-zu or awase-zu. Just Bento . The trapped moisture will help to keep the rice grains from hardenening. you just love the taste of rice. Onigiri are rice balls. Yo u should use a cut-turn-fold motion sort of like when you mix in egg whites into a cake batter. Part of their appeal lies in the fact that if you're Japanese. This is why the best nigiri-zushi (the stand ard sushi that everyone thinks of a 'sushi' . Turn yo ur hot rice out into the bowl or plate. usually with a tasty filling. This ensures that the grains will be nice an d glossy and not mushy. at the sushi counter . This you do with one hand. They are very portable. and 1/2 tablespoon of salt. [Yet another update:] Before asking a general question about onigiri. Important! Sushi rice should be served when it is slightly warm. please che ck out the Onigiri FAQ page. taking care not to squish the oval ball of sushi rice topped with a piece of fish) is eaten right after it's made. Moisten your spatula or paddle with a little of the vinegar. In our house it was always onigiri. T his is enough to flavor 4 cups of rice. or else do what I do and use a hair dryer on the 'cool' setting.not chilled. Rope in an assistant to do the fanning. and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Keep going until the rice has a bsorbed the vinegar. Heat over l ow heat in a small saucepan. When you need the rice. Pour the sushi vinegar over the rice. It's genet ic. Recipe: Sushi vinegar mix (awase-zu) If you can't get prepared sushi vinegar you can make it thus: Mix 1/4 cup of rice vinegar or mild cider vinegar. so adjust the amount according to the am ount of rice you have. or be part of a bento or boxed lunch. neater way to make onigiri! [Another update:] See all kinds of onigiri on my new bento-only site. warm up for a couple of minutes in the mic rowave. see rec ipe below). whic . I guess it just depends on what word you grew up with. With your other. (For some reason it's never just called "nigiri". 1 tablespoon of sugar. If you must make your sushi rice in advance. or at the least at room temperature . though bento is also called obento. then open up to cool down again to room temperature. Working rapidly. When making sushi at home.

cup your hand sharply to form each corner. various tidbits . Ta ke 1/4th of the rice and place on one hand. and to wrap t hem around the onigiri when eating.) 2 sheets of nori seaweed. or Uncle Ben's. When we stayed at my grandmother's and my cousines and I would take trips to the Chichibu mountain area. Like obento boxed lunches. I remember my aunt m aking 12-cups of rice worth of onigiri at a time for the large family gatherings at New Year's or Obon (August festival to pay respect to our ancestors). but the simple ve rsions the are best in my opinion. flaked cooked salted salmon (shake or shiozake). cooked salty cod roe (tarako ). To bring along on picnic.very salty salmon in fact. If it's hard to get a hold of the traditional fillings. here are some non-tradit . Practive makes perfect. . Some classic fillings are pickled plum (umeboshi).cooked and preserved in a strong soy-sugar-sauce. Working rapidly. bas mati. and sprinkle them with salt. hot rice. sometimes people look at us curiously as we bite into those soccer-ball colored balls. jasmine. Some people prefer to carry the nori strips separately. We often bring some onigiri with us on long t rain trips: it's a lot better than buying the overpriced sandwich buns from the vending carts. I came across this post by Mimi It o . onigiri can be elaborate creations. and tsukudani. wrap in plastic film or in a bamboo leaf (which is tra ditional). cut into 3cm/2 inch wide strips Salt Fillings. tiny clams. because Japanese travelers have sustained themselves on those salty rice balls for hund reds of years. Make a dent in the middle of the ric e with your other hand. to preserve the crisp texture of the seaweed . To make the traditional triangular shape. Yes. Her ha nds would be bright red from the heat of the rice. an d keep turning it until you are happy with the shape. bonito flakes mixed with pickled plum (umekaka ). since with the appropriate fillings they keep rather well. Onigiri is also one of my top comfort foods. We don't care one bit. chopped up pickles (tsukemono). Repeat for the rest of the rice. You can't ma ke good onigiri with cold rice. my aunt would make huge rice balls to assuage our appetites. She favored salted salmon (sh io zake) as the filling usually .) Onigiri are also a great make-ahead snack for a crowd. and to onigiri too. Put in about 1 tsp or so worth of filling in the dent. Japanese people have a lot of emotional attachment to obento. There's a comforting feeling of continuity with history too. While I was working on writing up this entry. Classic Onigiri For 4 fair sized rice balls. etc.bonito cubes . Wet your impeccably clean hands with cold water. and form into a ball. It reminds me of the ones my mother used to make for me for school outings (ensoku) as well as countless school lun ches. wrap the rice around the filling. bonito flakes just moistened with soy sauce (okaka). you need: 4 cups of freshly cooked Japanese-style rice (What kind of rice can you use? See Looking at different types of rice. No.h is the honorific term. The key to making good onigiri is to have freshly cooked. Wrap the rice ball with 1-2 strips of nori seaweed. Some nontraditional fillings that work well are described below. you cannot use long-grain.

Basics and culture What is an onigiri? An onigiri is a savory (salty) compressed ball of rice. cel ery sticks. vending machines and more. It o ften has a filling or a coating of something savory. Where can I get onigiri in Japan? Just about every supermarket and convenience s tore sells them. What you call it just depends on where you grew up! In Hawaii. onigiri are called Japanese soul food .) Are onigiri just for bentos? In Japan. So I ve assembled a list of Onigiri FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). have them for breakfast. because of the nature of Ja . Some more obscure regional nam es include nigirimama and oninko. cucumber sticks). mainly from the western/southern parts of the country. or rice balls. or cylinde r shaped. which prob ably accounts for the use of musubi. very occasiona lly ??? My Japanese friend/my Japanese grandmother/my Hawaiian uncle calls it something else Onigiri are also often called omusubi (????). How do you pronounce it? o-NI-gi-ri (short 0 at the top. well squeezed to get rid of excessive moisture For a fairly well-rounded picnic lunch that can all be eaten without utensils. I t should be quite dry. (In the movie Kamome Diner (kamome shokudo). cooked with grated or chopped ginger. as well as plain rice onigiri simply made with salt. They are as common as pre-made sandwiches are in the West. not to mention train station kiosks. You can also drop the honorific o and call it musubi. onigiri is a basic convenience food. but there are also onigiri made of pre-flavored/mixed rice. sake or mirin. some red pepper flakes. See Onigiri on parade. flavored with a bit of soy sauce and/or sa lt to taste. Peop le carry them on hikes. Canned tuna. and vegetable sticks (carrot sticks.ional ones that I have tried that work well. not oh or ooh) How is it written in Japanese? most often ???? (all in hiragana). Many people have asked similar questions about oni giri. an apple or orange. a rice ball is called a mu subi mostly. or nigirimeshi (which literally means hand-pressed rice . Curry flavored ground meat mixture works surprisingly wel l can be round. but I m not one of them. Are onigiri a Japanese invention? They probably are. I ll update this li st when I see (or remember) other questions periodically. t hen flavored with soy sauce. Why do anime and manga characters love onigiri so much? Onigiri is Japanese comf ort food. because Japanese people love rice. Rice is the main staple of Japanese cuisine. a dd hard-boiled eggs (with a twist of salt) or cold barbeque chicken or skewered chicken (yakitori). discussed at length here. salty filling should work. or anything else. There was a big wave of emigration from Japan to Hawaii in the late 19th century. There are a few purists who insist that onigiri must be triangular. nigiri.) Does an onigiri have to be a triangle? No it doesn t . car trips. Any rather strongly flav ored. as late night snacks e tc. unlike the more traditiona l fillings (especially umeboshi) these fillings are quite perishable. here on Just Ben to as well as on Just Hungry. Ground meat (pork or beef or a mixture). well drained and flaked. (Actually you can ge t pre-made sandwiches as easily too in Japan. The Onigiri (Omusubi) FAQ 22 Aug 2008 by maki I have written quite exhaustively about onigiri. and I think that is very true. which seem to just be gaining and gaining in popularity these days. Flaked corned beef Chopped up western style pickles (as long as they don't have too much garlic in the brine). and sugar. However. so be care ful in hot weather if you are taking them for a picnic.

If you can t get Japanese type rice (or sushi rice) easily where you live. A typical onigiri has about 1/2 cup of rice. so it s around 100 calories plus whatever is used for the filling. and onigiri may have come i nto existence then. also called uruchimai. It s also very popular in South Korea. as long as it s medium-grain Japonica rice or short-grain glutionous rice.S. What are traditional onigiri fillings? A list and photos of the most common trad itional fillings are on the Onigiri on Parade page. I repeat not.panese style rice (slightly sticky). (see okowa onigiri made from sticky rice) Is Spam Musubi Japanese? Spam musubi is a product of Hawai. using the corners! You can also use handy molds/moulds: Cooking Cute has a nice step b y step tutorial. compact and a bit salty. plus an easier way using plastic wrap. which was occupied until the 1970s by the United States and still has a U. I just can t make myself like Sp am in any to make your ow n from fresh salmon) and okaka (katsuobushi or bonito flakes flavored with soy s auce). See Looking at rice for different types of rice. Help! My onigiri fall apart! This could either be due to using the wrong kind of . The top three traditional fi llings are: umeboshi (pickled plums). got their Spam habit from Americans. sausage meat.see this one on Lunch In A Box. corned beef as long as i t s not too wet. How do I make onigiri? There are very detailed instructions for how to make them with your bare hands.) Personally. mushy. overcooked rice will glue together if you mash it hard enough. Both regions. This is the kind of onigiri that was carried around in feudal times by samurai and f oot soldiers on the warpath. Spam was virtually unknown until fairly r ecently in much of mainland Japan. In China you have steamed glutinous rice wrapped in leaves. That means that long grain rice types like jasm ine and basmati are not. How to make onigiri What s the key to making good onigiri? The base ingredient of onigiri is the corre ct type of rice. Example: these Hello Kit ty molds. pickles. and the colorful mini onigiri I made with them. a small meatball. JustBento reader S amantha contributed this great method of making onigiri in a plastic bag. Do I have to use Japanese rice? What about jasmine rice (or other types of rice) ? An onigiri has to stay in a ball shape. chopped up Spam. cooked properly. Does an onigiri have to be made with white rice? You can also make it with brown rice. (Spam is fairly popular in Okinawa.sorry! The re are plenty of spam musubi recipes online however . See how to wash and cook rice properly using a rice cooker or on the stove. shake (salted salmon .) Sure. cooked chicken. c ame into wide use around the 11th or 12th centuries. so you won t see any spam musubi recipes on this site . anything can be a good onigiri filling. military bas e. This type of rice. A rice cooker can be very helpful for doing th is. anchovies. It s a great way to enjoy simple. but it will not taste nice at all. a plain rice onigiri with salt on the outside. so the rice has to be glutinous enough that the grains stick together. or this step by step on Cooking Cute. but that s a subjective thing of course. it was probably crea ted by immigrants of Japanese descent. Are onigiri diet food? Well. that depends on how big they are! Many people find onigiri more filling than sandwiches. well cooked good ri ce. Nutrition How many calories are in an onigiri? It depends on how big it is or how much ric e is used to make it. Does an onigiri have to have a filling? No it doesn t! The most basic type of onig iri is a shio musubi (????). The most suitable types of rice for onigiri are medium grain or short grain. and more about rice cookers. Non-traditional fillings? Anything you can imagine! Some suggestions that reader s have made in the past include: chopped up olives. Recent onigiri molds come in a handy scooper shape which makes making onigiri in all kinds of cute shapes even easier. suited to onigiri. (I feel very strongly about this. as far as I can find out. but that s a bit different from onigiri. See Looking at rice. Italian rices used for risotto can be substituted.

com page that blithely states that you can store oni giri refrigerated for up to a week .rice (long grain rice. The wagashi that s closest to the idea of a sweet onigiri is probably ohagi or botamochi. making it fall apart. mochi of various kinds. What s the difference between sushi and onigiri? Again it s a matter of how things a .sa y. complete ly cooked fillings (never ever used raw/uncured fish or rare meat) and always us e freshly cooked (ideal) or defrosted/reheated rice. cov ered or both with sweet bean paste. Some wagashi that take the rice-with-sweet-filling form include daifuku. salty form of kombu seaweed) and usuyaki tamago (thin omelettes). How long do onigiri last in the refrigerator? How do you keep them safe to eat? This mainly depends on the filling as well as how much salt you use on the surfa ce when you make the onigiri. How do I prevent onigiri from getting dried out? Keep them well covered/wrapped up. and survived without any problems (it was in the fall. try transpor ting them wrapped in plastic wrap. ) Other questions Can I use sweet fillings for onigiri? Fundamentally you can use anything you lik e . not in a cooler. sesame see ds and so on. Umeboshi has natural antibacterial qualit ies. If you use tradition al fillings. and then in a freeze r box or bag to protect it from freezer burn. If the weather is very warm and humid and you have used spoilable fillings such as tuna/mayo. but you shouldn t do this regularly ! The fillings used that time were umeboshi and salty salmon. I have eaten onigiri that was a day old (made the morning before and eaten for breakfast) that had been in packed in a paper back and thrown on the back seat of a car. (I ve seen a note on this ehow. do not keep more than a day to be safe. so is the ideal filling for onigiri that have to be held for some time . If you want to g o wrapping-less but your onigiri falls apart before you can eat it. So. Anecdotally. or zap it in the microwave. See Ke eping onigiri fresh and more Don t keep frozen onigiri in the freezer for too long . to Japanese sensibilities an onigiri is something savory. use common sense and be safe not sorry. I hated nori! But now as an adult I love it. You can defrost the onigiri in the refrigerator s your food! However. etc. for what it s worth . No you can not! Please. you should make onigiri with adequate salt on the outside.) Other wrappers include tororo ko mbu (a thin. though a wrapping do es help to keep the rice together. y atsuhashi and so on. You can even buy special cute onigiri wrappin g film! I hate nori alternative wrappers? A popular wrapper is salted fresh shiso leaves. but no more than a couple of days. or they will eventually get freezer burn. jasmine rice. glutinous rice onigiri of sorts which are filled. in Japan if you make a ball of rice (which is often s weetened itself. basmati rice. at room temperature. especially umeboshi (pickled salty plums) they will last a lot long er. so it is quite possibly an acquired taste. (I must confess that when I was a kid. and pounded partly or fully to a sticky paste or dough) and fil led with something sweet it becomes confectionery or wagashi. Again see Onigiri on parade. and if so how? Yes onigiri can be frozen very successfully . are not sticky enough t o make a rice ball with). improper cooking of rice (it should not be too dry/har d OR too sticky/gluey) or using a filling that s so oily or watery that the oil/wa ter seeps out into the rice. You shouldn t eat onigiri that has been around outside of proper refrigeration for more than a day. not midsummer). In any case. not sweet. consider pack ing your onigiri with an icepack (see Summer Bento Safety). Just wrap them individually in plastic wrap (cling film). kinako (toasted soy bean powder).no tuna-mayo or crab salad or other highly perishable filling. made the evening before to be eating or lunch on the road the next day. Onigiri safety and transport Can I freeze onigiri. If you use tuna with mayonnaise or any filling wit h mayonnaise in it. Do onigiri have to be wrapped in nori seaweed? No they don t.

the best known sushi shape with a little ball of rice topped wi th fish or something else. or sushi rice (sushi meshi or shari) iis sushi. So you could make an onigiri-shaped item with shari. and call it an onigiri.the same word that forms part of the word onigiri. is sushi that has been shaped with the hands (nigiru) . but generally speaking anything mad e with vinegar flavored rice. but i f a Japanese person ate it s/he would probably think it s sushi in an onigiri shap normally categorized in Japanese cooking. . Nigiri-zushi.