Onigiri are rice balls, and they’re basically the Japanese version of sandwiches. They’re a fast, convenient snack that you can eat without getting your hands messy, and they’ve been a staple of Japanese lunches since medieval times. But now there’s a hip new version that’s trying to take over from the long-established practice of molding the rice by hand.
A traditional onigiri is a triangular or round ball of boiled white rice wrapped in nori (seaweed) with a filling such as pickled plum, salted salmon, or anything else someone wants to put inside. The name comes from the verb ‘nigiru’ which means ‘to mold/press into a shape’, and refers to how the rice is molded by hand into the desired shape.
Recently a new version of the Japanese ‘fast food’ has been popping up on Twitter and Instagram and is trending on popular recipe site Cookpad. The recipe was actually introduced years ago in volume 22 of the manga Cooking Papa as ‘super simple onigiri’, but in the last month it’s been cropping up on social media and gaining popularity, particularly among the many people who like to post photos of their bento lunch boxes.
So what makes this new version better than the old tried-and-true one? Well for one, this non-nigiru version means you don’t get your hands sticky when making it. It’s also apparently easier to eat than their counterparts, which can sometimes crumble apart if you’re not careful. And you can stuff then with far more fillings than your usual onigiri, which will typically only have a small pinch of ingredients hidden away inside.
Simple instructions for making non-nigiri onigiri.
1. Lay a square of nori out on some clingfilm
2. Flatten the rice out in the middle of the nori
3. Add the desired filling on top
4. Fold the four corners of the nori up to meet in the middle so you’ve got a neat little square
And that’s it! Simple. You can eat it as-is or slice it up, play around with different fillings, and change things around to your liking such as using egg-fried rice instead of plain white rice.
Below are some examples we’ve spotted on Twitter.
Let us know if you give the non-nigiri onigiri a go yourself!