November 22, 2011

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) - Tutorials

As I was searching online for bento ideas, I have come across of Onigiri.  They are Japanese Rice Balls with Nori sheets.  My children loves Nori with rice.  They love sushi rolls.  But I'd like to create new items and shapes to their lunches to make it more interesting and appealing to their appetites.  I think Onigiri might be a good twist/alternative to the usual sushi rice they are bringing in school.

Muffin Tin Meals have a tutorial on adorable Ninja Balls which are very easy to make.  You can use this on Ninja-themed parties.  a good start for introducing kids to onigiri.  It's always safe to start with something familiar to taste than adding a lot of stuffs right away.  

All you need is a:
  • pre-cooked rice
  • nori sheets
  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • bowl of water
For more informations, you might wanna check their website here.

There's also one by Just Hungry for the advanced-eaters.  This has more flavor to it than just plain rice with Nori.  Another great alternative to introducing kids to a variety of flavors once they approved of ONIGIRI.

For 4 fair sized rice balls, you need:
  • *4 cups of freshly cooked Japanese-style rice (Don't use long-grain, jasmine, basmati, or Uncle Ben's.)
  • *2 sheets of nori seaweed, cut into 3cm/2 inch wide strips
  • *Salt
  • *Fillings. 
  • Some classic fillings are:
  • pickled plum (umeboshi), bonito flakes just moistened with soy sauce (okaka), bonito flakes mixed with pickled plum (umekaka), flaked cooked salted salmon (shake or shiozake), cooked salty cod roe (tarako), chopped up pickles (tsukemono), and tsukudani, various tidbits - bonito cubes, tiny clams, etc. - cooked and preserved in a strong soy-sugar-sauce. 
Some non-traditional fillings that work well are:
  • *Ground meat (pork or beef or a mixture), cooked with grated or chopped ginger, then flavored with soy sauce, some red pepper flakes, sake or mirin, and sugar. It should be quite dry. Curry flavored ground meat mixture works surprisingly well too.
  • *Canned tuna, well drained and flaked, flavored with a bit of soy sauce and/or salt to taste.
  • *Flaked corned beef
  • *Chopped up western style pickles (as long as they don't have too much garlic in the brine), well squeezed to get rid of excessive moisture
This is fantastic.  An absolute great addition to my bento items.  I would just have to experiment on which fillings work best for my children.  We've tried ground meat and flaked corned beef already.  But as suggested make sure they are really dry when you make them.  Otherwise, the rice balls would be soggy by the time you're ready to eat them.  It takes a lot of patience and practice to perfect onigiri because you have to form them hot.  And that's pretty scalding for palms.  I think it's best to get rice molders that they sell at Japanese Retail Stores, or online.  Not only it's easier, but also you'll save your palms.
Here's an example of the sushi rice molds that I am talking about.  You can just fill this up with hot rice.  While it's in the mold, place fillings in the center, then flip it over.  Since the rice is still hot, it will slide down with no trouble.  Then decorate with Nori sheets according to your preference.  Below you'll see the instructions on how to do it straight from its packaging.  It's as easy as 1-2-3.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as I did.  You might noticed that I normally just give you links for the tutorials.  That's because I didn't invent it myself.  I just found it on the web too.  They're the expert and have demonstrated it well for you to see and follow.  I'm just sharing my discoveries, and like you will try it as well and see how it works for my family.  I'd like to hear from your household how you liked Onigiri.   

Happy Onigiri-Making!!
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