February 1, 2010

Making Onigiri : Japanese Rice Balls

A few nights ago my little sister and I made Onigiri (o-NI-gi-ri.) I bought her a Japanese cookbook for her birthday that specialized in "Bento Box" food. Bento Boxes are pretty much Japanese style lunch boxes. Many come with chopsticks in the lid. Packing a Bento Box is an art, traditionally you are supposed to use five different colored foods when you pack them (an old-fashioned way to make sure you were getting all of your nutrients. All food was meant to be eaten at room temperature.

Making animals and fun shapes and pictures with the food in the boxes are an old tradition and many Japanese mothers compete with each other to make the prettiest food displays for their children's lunches.  The boxed lunches are making their way into other countries as a way to make healthy food more fun for children.  Processed foods are rarely included in bento boxes.

Here is a gallery of Bento Boxes: Air and Angels
And here are galleries of fun food displays (Really, check some of these out!):
Bento Box Art
Henny (Scroll down a bit)

Onigiri are rice balls which are typically wrapped with nori (toasted seaweed) and lightly salted. Some onigiri have fillings or are sprinkled with spices. We were going to eat them all by ourselves, so we only used 1 cup of rice.

We first filled a small saucepan with one cup of rice and one cup of water. We poured out the water and added a new cup 3 or 4 times until the water became clear. We then heated the rice on medium heat until it boiled up, then turned the burner on low and let the rice simmer until all of the water evaporated (about 20 minutes.)[ I thought I'd just point out, before I got comments about it: We aren't druggies, our mother has diabetes.]   

After the water had evaporated completely, we flipped the saucepan upside down (we did this over the sink, not trusting ourselves,) and held it that way about 3 minutes.

We placed a peice of plastic wrap over a glass measuring cup.

We then scooped the rice into the plastic wrap. We picked formed the plastic wrap into a satchel shape and molded the rice through it into triangle shapes. Test it to make sure it isn't too hot to handle-ours cooled quickly.

We cut nori (toasted seaweed) into one inch strips with scissors. Nori is available at most supermarkets. We wrapped on strip of nori around the bases of each rice ball. 

Finished rice balls. These were yummy. My sister liked them but thought we put too much seaweed on them.

There are much more detailed instructions on making onigiri at Just Hungry.

*Please forgive the photo of me, that's what you get when your sister wakes you up after you have gone to bed sick and says "I'm making rice balls!" and when you say "Good, have fun!" and roll over, she starts with the puppydog face and "I thought you were going to help me... I can't do it by myself..." I am feeling much better today.


  1. They look yummy.Btw do you girls have bento boxes? If not I know where to get them cheep.:)

  2. We don't. She'd really like that--maybe I can get her one for valentines day. You finally got to see a picture of my little sister, everyone says she's a mini version of me. I don't think so. :D

  3. So THAT's what they look like in real life! I always saw anime characters scarfing these down in cartoons. They look yummy. Let's make some.

    Also, Bento boxes are like the best way to eat food ever. I went to a very fancy place in Wayne called Margaret Kuo's once. It was a Japanese restaurant upstairs and a Chinese one downstairs. (Brian did design work for Margaret Kuo herself-she was one of his highest paying clients- and he suggested I eat there) Anyway, me and my date got Bento Boxes and it was the best 30 dollars I ever spent. I love whatever the orange stuff is they put on the salad!


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