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All You Need to Know about Onigiri, a Uniquely Japanese Food

Have you ever seen a triangular food item covered in a black sheet and wondered what it was? It is the Japanese soul food, onigiri. Here are some trivia about onigiri, which is a uniquely Japanese food that comes in many varieties.

What Is an Onigiri?

Onigiri is, in essence, a Japanese fast food that is made with rice, filling and nori (dried seaweed made into black sheets). It is made by packing cooked rice together by hand. Most onigiri have a filling, and have commonly been made for centuries as food to take on journeys or to work and school, as they can be eaten easily with one hand. Today, they are available at supermarkets and convenience stores starting at about 100 JPY. In the following sections, we will introduce various types of onigiri, ranging from standard to novel ones, as well as how to make them.

Popular Onigiri

There are countless different types of onigiri, but here are some classics.

Ume

One of the most conventional type of onigiri is those made with umeboshi (unripe plum pickled in salt). Umeboshi has disinfecting properties and prevents bacteria from multiplying, so it is often used in Japanese bento boxes.

Sake (Salmon)

The salmon used in onigiri is usually salted and flaked. The salty salmon, rice and nori are considered to be the perfect combination. This is a popular type of onigiri.

Mentaiko

Mentaiko is cod roe pickled in salt and flavored with ingredients such as chili peppers. Mentaiko onigiri is distinguished by the texture of the mentaiko grains and the umami flavors.

Yaki-onigiri

Yaki-onigiri is onigiri that has been flavored with soy sauce and grilled. It usually does not have any filling, so the flavor comes solely from the soy sauce. It is an onigiri distinguished by the aroma of grilled soy sauce.

Tuna Mayonnaise

Tuna with mayonnaise, which is often used in sandwiches, goes perfectly with rice as well. Tuna mayonnaise onigiri are popular among people of all ages.

Unique Onigiri

There are a variety of different ways of making onigiri, such as by using items usually eaten with rice as the filling, or making the onigiri with flavored rice. The possibilities for onigiri are endless. Here, we introduce some novel onigiri.

Onigiri Rolled in Meat

This is a regional onigiri from Miyazaki Prefecture. It is a filling onigiri made by wrapping slices of pork marinated in a soy sauce-based sauce around a plain onigiri and baking it in an oven. It is eaten wrapped in lettuce. With variations, such as ones with cheese on top, it has become a popular type of onigiri around the country.

Omurice Onigiri

This is an onigiri-shaped omurice (omelet with fried rice) made by wrapping a thin omelet around ketchup-flavored fried rice. It is an omurice that can be eaten with one hand.

With a Whole Egg

This is an onigiri that has a whole, flavored boiled egg inside. Photographed is the version by the onigiri shop, Marutoyo, in Tsukiji and is aptly named the Bomb. The soft-boiled egg bursts when you bite into it, filling your mouth with its flavors.

How to Make Onigiri

Onigiri may seem easy to make, but it actually takes practice. Fill a rice bowl with cooked rice and spread half of it in one hand. You should wet your hands slightly with water to prevent the rice from sticking. Also, you can put a little salt on your hand beforehand to give the rice a little flavor. Next, put the desired filling on top, cover it with the rest of the rice, and lightly wrap it with both hands to create a triangular shape. Don't press too tightly or the rice will get squished and it will not taste as good. On the other hand, if you are too gentle, the onigiri will fall apart when you eat it, so you need to find the perfect balance. Although most onigiri are triangular, some in the Kansai region are oval. Once you've made the onigiri into the desired shape, wrap nori around it before eating.

How to Eat Convenience Store Onigiri

Many people have trouble figuring out how to open onigiri purchased at convenience stores. The trick is to open it in order, according to the numbers on the packaging. We offer some tips below so you can enjoy a tasty onigiri with crunchy nori.

Look for Number 1 at the Corner of the Triangle

The numbers 1, 2, and 3 are printed on the corners of the onigiri, so start by pulling the number 1 part all the way around.

Take the Onigiri out of the Packaging

Next, pull sideways on the corner marked 2 so that that the outer packaging and the thin plastic between the nori and the rice comes off. Repeat with 3. Don't pull too vigorously or you may drop the onigiri or rip the nori. Once you've got the plastic off, it's time to eat it!

Has this gotten you craving an onigiri? There is a wide variety of onigiri being sold with the selection varying by shop or convenience store and region. Be sure to try the Japanese fast food, onigiri.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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