Sunday, March 9, 2008


For bento boxes, I like to pack onigiri, which are rice balls. It's not a really complicated concept -- just an easy way to eat rice on the go.

The easiest way to shape onigiri is to start off with fresh, warm rice. I prefer this Korean sushi rice brand, which is sticky without being mushy. It has a nice... er, al dente feel to it? (Holy crap, I just looked al dente on Wikipedia, and it's actually used to decribe rice sometimes! I thought it was just a term for pasta.)

You don't have to use plain rice. I've used rice mixed with furikake, curry rice, fried rice... any variation you like is good.

To begin, wet your hands with salted water. Place about half a palmful of warm rice in your hand. You can add a filling at this point if you want. Something small and flavorful. I like bread and butter pickles (which are sweet, as opposed to the sour dill pickles). The traditional Japanese filling is umeboshi (pickled plum).

Top it off with more rice, and then squeeze and press together. Get it balled nice and tight, and it won't fall apart when you finally eat it. I favor a triangle shape, but you can make a ball or an oval or whatever you want. Wet your hands again as necessary -- be careful not to make it too wet, or the rice gets mushy.

I like to wrap plain onigiri with a piece of seaweed. If you hold it by the seaweed when you're eating, it's less likely to stick to your fingers. Like so:

Onigiri refrigerate poorly -- which is true of rice, as well. Since rice gets hard and crumbly when cold, you should avoid putting onigiri in the fridge. I tend to make a lot of rice ahead of time. Then, in the morning, I microwave some of it to get it soft again, then I make the onigiri to carry for lunch.

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