Sunday, 30 September 2012

Japanese Rice Balls Recipe - Onigiri

Now that the children are back to school I started to think about the challenge that faces parents to pack a healthy and appetizing school lunch for their children. In recent years, schools have started to play a role in encouraging parents to pack healthy lunches by not allowing children to have sugar filled snacks as part of their lunch. My sister actually mentioned in passing the other day that her son's school gives awards for the best packed lunch!

Japanese rice balls called onigiri in Japanese are a popular lunchbox filler in Japan. So if you're stuck for ideas when packing your children's lunch or your own lunch for work then try these easy to make and very healthy rice balls! Since Japanese rice is very sticky the rice balls won't fall apart so it's easy to eat these with your hands. You can wrap them in cling film in your lunchbox so that they keep their shape and stay fresh.  

The recipe below is very basic using only rice and seaweed with some seasoning on top but you can add whatever fillings you like in the middle or mix the filling with the rice and then shape the rice ball. Tuna mayo is a popular filling for rice balls and generally liked by most people.

Japanese sushi rice (320g uncooked)
Pinch of salt  
1 Nori sheet (roasted seaweed)
Dried shiso leaf (optional for seasoning)
Roasted sesame seeds (optional for seasoning)

Makes 6-8 rice balls

1. Cook rice (please click here to see my post on how to cook Japanese rice).

2. Fill a small bowl with cold water and then add the salt. Use this water bowl to coat your hands before you start making the rice balls. I tend to use sushi rice seasoning to coat my hands if I have the ingredients and time, click here to see how to make sushi rice seasoning.

3. Coat your hands in the seasoned water and take a handful of warm rice. Start to shape the rice into a oval or triangular shape. Make sure you hands are firm when shaping the rice to ensure that the rice ball won't fall apart.

4. Place a sheet of nori on a chopping board. Cut off a small piece of nori and wrap it around the bottom of the rice ball as shown in the picture above. 

5. Sprinkle dried shiso leaf or sesame seeds over the rice ball.

How to eat:
Eat with your hands like a sandwich.

1. Don't try to shape the rice ball when the rice is hot as you'll burn your hand!

2. Don't put the nori on the rice until you're ready to eat it if you like the nori crispy.

3. Only use Japanese sushi rice as the rice has to be sticky to make rice balls.

Why not:
Cover the rice ball completely in nori if you like the taste of nori.
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