If you ever visit Japan and want to sample one of the staples of local cuisine, find a convenience store and grab an onigiri, or rice ball. Easy to make, plentiful in variety and an essential component of any bento lunch, the onigiri is to Japan what the sandwich is to the West.
But with so many different fillings, how do you know which onigiri to try out? If you want a taste of the REAL Japan, you need to eat what REAL Japanese people are eating, which is why we’d like to share with you this REAL list ranking the most popular onigiri fillings in Japan.
The list comes from a survey taken last month by Japanese internet research group My Voice, which polled 11,581 people about what food they like to stuff in their balls of rice. The results are as follows:
1. Salmon – 66.9%
2. Tarako (salted cod roe) – 48.7%
3. Mentaiko (seasoned cod roe) – 47.8%
4. Tuna & mayonnaise – 47.2%
5. Konbu (dried kelp) – 42.2%
6. Umeboshi (dried Japanese plum) – 41.1%
7. Katsuo (dried bonito) – 36.3%
8. Takikomi gohan (seasoned rice steamed with vegetables, meat or fish) – 30.8%
9. Baked onigiri – 30.1%
10. Takana (leaf mustard) – 29.0%
11. Tenpura – 26.6%
12. Ikura (salted salmon roe) – 25.7%
13. Osekihan (rice steamed with red adzuki beans) – 21.3%
14. Minced chicken – 20.0%
15. Fried rice – 15.6%
16. Nikumaki onigiri (pork soaked in a soy sauce base) – 15.1%
17. Salt (no fillings, just salted rice. It’s better than it sounds.) – 14.7%
18. Grilled beef rib – 14.4%
19. Stewed pork – 12.1%
20. Eel – 9.2%
21. Omelette & ketchup – 9.1 %
22. Cheese – 4.4%
23. Other – 3.7%
In addition to fillings, participants were also asked a number of questions related to their onigiri eating habits.
For example, while 99% of participants answered that they like onigiri (told you everyone eats them!), 62% of them said they “more or less” like it whereas only 35% said they are “extremely fond of” the food.
85% of participants said they buy onigiri at convenience stores (as opposed to supermarkets-and believe me, they’re no good) and 76% said that when they eat onigiri, it’s during lunch.
One interesting finding was that while 62% of people said they would eat an onigiri made by someone they know, only 30% said they would eat the onigiri crafted by an unfamiliar or unknown hand, surely the legacy of 16th century ninja poison rice ball assassinations.