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Cook-in-Progress: Onigiri

BY CAROLINE BERG | APRIL 13, 2009 7:30 AM

Just because the weak economy put your piggy bank on a diet doesn’t mean you have to budget on fun. As the age-old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make Japanese food.”

When all you can afford is rice, make onigiri. This popular Japanese treat is a simple and pocketbook-friendly way to jazz up your mealtime and even utilize leftovers. Onigiri is essentially a neat ball of hand-pressed rice filled with an ingredient of choice and cocooned in a band of toasted seaweed. Traditional fillings include umeboshi (pickled plum) or salted salmon, which help preserve the rice. But these are not concrete rules. Get your creative juices flowing and experiment to find your favorite filling.

Onigiri is edible, obviously, but it does bare a striking resemblance to a snowball. If it’s been a rough day at work, maybe a friendly onigiri fight can cure the pain.

What you’ll need:

Cooked rice, room temperature (each individual onigiri requires about one cup of cooked rice)

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups of water

Toasted seaweed sheets (you can find this packaged at your local co-op)

Filling (kimchee, chopped daikon, or tuna salad)

Rice seasoning (optional; such as *Aonori Ko* kelp flakes)

*Note: If you are cooking the rice yourself, make sure you use short grain rice for a more sticky result and rinse the rice before cooking to further increase its stickiness.

What to do:

1. Wash your hands with soap and water.

2. Cut the seaweed sheets into wide strips and set aside.

3. Combine the salt and water in a bowl.

4. Dip your hands in the water. This helps the rice stick together while forming it into a ball and not crumble in your hand.

5. Scoop up a generous amount of rice and pack it into a firm foundation on the palm of your hand. Form an indent in the middle with your thumb to make room for the filling.

6. Fill the indent with your ingredient of choice (such as a mini ball of tuna salad).

7. Dip your free hand again into the saltwater and scoop up more rice to pack on top of the filling. To pack your rice ball Japanese-style, curve your free hand into a *yama katachi* mountain shape. Cup your hands around the rice ball and squeeze firmly as if you were making an angular snowball.

8. Retrieve a strip of your toasted seaweed and wrap your onigiri ball with the glossy side of the strip facing out.

9. Dip the ball in the rice seasoning.

10. Itadakimasu. (In English: Let’s eat.)


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