Every time we visit Japan, we always eat rice balls or onigiri because they are delicious and convenient. While you can find onigiri in every convenient store, the best tasting rice balls I found were from specialty shops where rice is pretty much the only thing you can buy, such as rice balls or rice cooked with other ingredients. These places often have onigiri made with seasonal ingredients and I find the texture of their rice balls more superior (likely because they are made fresh).
At home, I’d make onigiri for picnics or simple lunch/snack. You can basically fill the inside of the rice ball with whatever you fancy. Here I used canned tuna but chopped up cooked chicken, tofu, or veggies will also work.
Ingredients (Makes 4 rice balls):
- 3 cups of fresh, cooked rice (hot or still warm to the touch)
- 1 can of tuna, drained (I use low sodium, solid tuna packed in water)
- 3 tbsp mayo (add more if you want a creamier consistency)
- sriracha or tabasco sauce (optional)
- sea salt & fresh ground pepper
- toasted nori or seaweed (optional)
- Put the tuna in a bowl and flake it into smaller pieces with a fork. Mix in mayo and season with salt and pepper. Add in some sriracha or tabasco sauce if you want a bit of heat.
- Use the rice paddle to loosen up the rice and season it with a bit of salt (to your preference). Divide the rice up into 4 equal portions.
- Take a piece of plastic wrap that’s large enough to wrap around one portion of rice and lay it on your palm. Curl your fingers so your palm forms a shallow cup shape and scoop a portion of rice on top of the plastic wrap. Spread the rice out so it covers most of your palm with an indent int the middle and add a spoonful or two of the tuna filling. Pull the edges of the plastic wrap up so the rice encloses the tuna filling and forms a rough circle.
- For a round rice ball: Rolling the rice ball between the palms of your hands to form a circular shape.
- For a triangular rice ball: Cup the rice ball between your hands and rotate the rice ball while pressing towards it with your fingers and the heel of your palm. It’s a bit hard to describe so watch this video which will give you a better idea on how to shape a rice ball into a triangle.
- Remove the plastic wrap and your first rice ball is ready! Repeat with the remaining portion of rice. If you like, wrap a piece of toasted nori (seaweed) around the onigiri.
- Traditionally rice balls are shaped by bare hands (no plastic wrap) and you’d wet your hands with some water and put some sea salt on your palms which will help season the rice as you shape the onigiri. However, I prefer to use a plastic wrap because it allows me to work with rice that would otherwise be too hot for my bare hands.
- You might have extra tuna filling left over. I usually top my rice ball with the extra filling or make a snack-size tuna sandwich.