One thing I loved about animations as a kid was how good the food always looked. One that specifically comes to mind is dumplings in Kung Fu Panda. Until about 2 years ago I had been on animation sabbatical until I started watching Death Note, Jo-Jo’s Bizarre adventures, and One Punch Man with my friends in highschool.
These shows have plenty of scenes with delicious looking Japanese cuisine including miso soup, dumplings, bao buns, takoyaki, and onigiri. I think Onigiri stands out as a dish that isn’t commonly seen in restaurants. This is primarily due to the function of onigiri as a quick meal or lunch for Japanese students or workers.
This hasn’t stopped onigiri from becoming somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. It is still heavily associated with anime and with the rapid growth of anime its popularity has taken off as well. I believe this to be mostly superficial with its representation on t-shirts instead of on plates like takoyaki or bao buns.
Below is the recipe for a form of this very popular dish which, true to its function, is a very quick and very satisfying dish to make. All you need is some sushi rice and some filling. It is also recommended to have seaweed sheets. For the filling there are many options from savory fish, I used spiced mackerel, to a sweeter ume plum.
- 2 cups of uncooked sushi rice but almost any rice will do
- 1 can of tuna and any seasoning you would like for the tuna
- (optional) seaweed sheets
To get started, cut the seaweed sheets with a knife or scissors into strips 3-4 inches long according to the size of your rice ball and about an inch wide. Before cooking the rice, wash it under cold water for about a minute then cook according to the directions on the package. The quick rinse will keep it from becoming too glutinous.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the filling by cooking the tuna to boil off excess water and add any seasonings you would like such as a 2 teaspoon of sugar, tablespoon of soy sauce, green onions, and salt to taste, but these are not necessary. Then set up a station to start forming the onigiri with your rice, bowl of water, filling, salt, and seaweed strips. You might also call some friends over to join in the fun. Once everything is ready, wet and salt your hands before placing a fistful of rice in your hand. Place about a teaspoon of your filling inside the ball and then start moving the rice up and around the filling. Once you have a ball, start compressing the rice tightly around the filling.
From here form the compact rice into the iconic triangle and place a strip of seaweed around the finished onigiri. Either enjoy immediately or place it covered in the fridge and warm up slightly for a quick snack later on. Feel free to try whatever size or shape you would prefer, and most importantly enjoy!