Let’s say that you plan on traveling around Japan this summer and you want to get to know some of the local cuisines a little better. Believe it or not, you can find treats such as Japanese onigiri here in the States. You have to know where to look – authentic Japanese cafes and restaurants should offer them much in the same way you can find fried or steamed dumplings. Let’s learn more about them!
First of all, it’s essential to know that onigiri is the word for rice ball, even if not all of them are perfectly spherical. If anything, they tend to be triangular. You have to take a firm hold on the rice and push it into the shape that it takes, which is where the nigiri in onigiri comes from since it means “firmly hold.” You can also choose to wrap it in dried seaweed if you are trying to make some on your own, but this is a decorative touch, and as distinctive as it is, you don’t have to add it if you don’t want to do so.
All Over Japan
Onigiri is also ubiquitous – so much like fries here in the States, you can find onigiri offered almost everywhere in Japan. You can find them in grocery stores, roadside markets, and in train stations. It’s incredibly portable, which makes it a fantastic snack for long trips. It can either be an appetizer, a side, or an entree. It all depends on how hungry you are, and you only need your hands to eat it.
Different Shapes and Filling
In case you think the onigiri is just a round ball of rice with a little seaweed on top, that’s an accurate but incredibly reductive view. Onigiri can have different shapes and fillings. Spherical shapes are also common. Another common form is called a tarawa, or rice bag. The fillings are called gu, and you can pickled plum or any other fillers that are doused in soy sauce.
Different Types of Rice
Although you’ll probably see most of the onigiri you eat made with white rice, you can use almost any type of rice. Fried rice is also standard as is seasoned white rice or brown rice for a healthy spin on things. You can also choose takikomi gohan – it’s still white rice, but this version has been garnished with veggies such as mushrooms or meat such as chicken.
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