How on Earth could I have possibly missed onigiri? Onigiri are deeply entrenched in Japanese food culture. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re rice balls. If you walk into any, and I do mean any, convenience store or grocery store in Japan, you’ll find a section devoted specifically to these. Rice balls are sometimes put in bentos as a part of a balanced, Japanese lunch. They are also a common snack for people on the go, for instance the ever-busy Japanese businessman (or “salaryman” as they may be referred to in Japan).
Many onigiri have some type of filling inside actual rice ball itself. It kind of seems like the sky’s the limit on this one. Umeboshi, tuna, tuna and mayo, salmon, sea cucumber, Soylent Green, and chicken are just some of the different things you might find in an onigiri. Okay, I was kidding about the Soylent Green thing, we can’t eat those in Japan because Soylent Green is made out of _________.** Some onigiri have had things inside that I couldn’t figure out what they were. One time, I just picked up an onigiri in a rush, and I bit into this slimy substance that wasn’t pleasant. I’m pretty open to eating all kinds of foods, but the mysterious substance coupled with the gooeyness was a bit hard to stomach. I tossed that onigiri in a hurry!
I’ve seen three major onigiri shapes. First there are the spherical rice balls (which I don’t see so often in stores, but can be homemade). Second, there are the cylindrically-shaped ones that are quite common in grocery and convenience stores. The third type, which is also quite common are the triangular shaped rice balls (or should I say triangular prism? If we’re being technical). Most rice balls are wrapped in seaweed (nori, 海苔). Why? I can’t say for sure, but I really think this is used to keep your onigiri from falling apart, and to keep your hands from getting all messy.
Interestingly enough, I have seen three different styles of seaweed wrapping that are common for Japanese onigiri. There’s the Full Wrap:
The Central Wrap (I’m just creating names based on how they look)
The Underneath Wrap
This is the beauty of onigiri. I you have little money to speak of, it’ s cheap and delicious snack. Well it’s delicious depending on your tastes and what kind onigiri you happened to buy. Onigiri generally from cost just over 100 yen (115 yen to 150 yen).
As I’ve mentioned in this article convience and grocery stores are the usual suspects.
I’m gonna say that depends on your palate. I’ve tried onigiri that other people like and I didn’t like them so much. The best way to find out is by experimenting.
Torigomoku (とりごも/く鳥五目), the chicken mixture onigiri is my absolute favorite What’s your favorite type of onigiri?
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