Onigiri – Japanese rice cake

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You probably know or have seen onigiri somewhere. Onigiri (お握り) are Japanese rice balls, which are usually wrapped in seaweed (nori). They are usually triangular in shape, but it is common for onigiri to be made with any circular or other appearance, as the name means handmade dumpling.

Onigiri can have a variety of fillings, but it is traditionally stuffed with fried salmon, umeboshi, katsuobushi, or any other kind of savory or sour ingredient. (don't be surprised to see sweet onigiri)

Onigiri is often made from white rice, flavored rice, fried rice, osekihan (steamed rice with adzuki beans) or gohan takikomi (steamed rice with vegetables, fish or meat). Just don't use sushi rice, otherwise you wouldn't call it sushi.

A few rules when it comes to onigiri. It is not obligatory to be stuffed or to be around a nori. Even sushi restaurants sell onigiri, but very different from what we expect when hearing the word.

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Onigiri - Japanese rice ball - お握り

Samurai Balls

The origins of onigiri are quite remote. It is believed that the onigiri appeared in the 15th century, when samurai kept rice balls on bamboo, and used them as a meal during battles.

Before chopsticks (hashi) became widespread in the Nara Period, rice was often rolled into small balls so that it could be served easily. In the Heian period it was also made rectangular in shape so it could be stacked on a plate and eaten with ease.

Another information is that “onigiri” can indicate the junction of two words: “oni” which means demon and “kiri” which means to sting. The origin of the name is a popular Japanese story that tells the story of a man named Oni Taro. He was a very large man who made an onigiri for a demon to satisfy his hunger.

Onigiri - Japanese rice ball - お握り

Types of Onigiri and Fillings

Today, onigiri have moved from the battlefield to the convenience store. They are as common in Japan as sandwiches are in the West. Onigiri are available at convenience stores, restaurants and supermarkets across Japan.

Onigiri can be made with many different flavors, including meat, fruit, fish, vegetables, cheese, and even chocolate. Some of the most popular flavors of Onigiri are rice pudding, brown rice, and red rice.

People also often do it at home. Its variety is only limited by imagination. Here's a look at the most popular onigiri types and fillings in Japan.

  • Salmon or salmon with mayonnaise
  • Tsuna Mayo (tuna and mayonnaise)
  • Ikura (salmon roe with salt)
  • Chicken, Fried chicken or chicken with mayonnaise
  • Tarako (salted cod roe)
  • mentaiko (cod roe or Pollock marinated in pepper sauce)
  • umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum)
  • Konbu (dry algae)
  • just rice (salty)
  • nikumaki (pork or beef)
  • Omelet
  • katsuo (beautiful dry)
  • Tempura
  • furikake
  • Takikomi Gohan (steamed rice with vegetables, fish or meat)
  • unagi (eel)
  • Tsukudani (seafood, meat or seaweed cooked in soy sauce and mirin)
  • Shiokara (a category of salted and fermented meats and seafood)
Onigiri - Japanese rice ball - お握り

Grilled Onigiri

Onigiri can be made in many different shapes, but the most popular shape is a triangle. Onigiri can be made into square shapes, circles, ovals and even animal shapes.

Another way is Yaki Onigiri, which are grilled over a fire with a butter and soy sauce until brown, golden and crispy.

Onigiri - Japanese rice ball - お握り

Videos about Onigiri

To finish, follow the videos below, showing a little more about the tasty onigiri. The Video below shows different types of konbini onigiri and their prices.

The video below shows the traditional onigiri

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