Visitors to Japan will no doubt have stumbled across one of the country’s many Konbini (convenience stores) and sampled some of the snacks on offer. One of the staple choices is Onigiri, little parcels of rice, wrapped carefully in plastic. They come with hundreds of different shapes and flavours and are the perfect pick-up when travelling around Japan. It takes a certain skill in learning how to open the clever packaging, designed to keep the seaweed from the rice, preventing it from sogginess.
Onigiri for many Japanese, will bring back memories of the bento box they had at school every lunchtime. Parents take pride in making onigiri each morning, they are Japan’s answer to the sandwich as they are so simple to make. Bento boxes are designed around the shape of your favourite style of onigiri, coming in triangular or circular tubes, so they can be kept safe.
To make these at home, simply prepare rice, shape it by hand and use nori (seaweed) sheets to wrap the rice between (if eating straight away). If you are heading out on a picnic, do keep the seaweed separate from the rice, until you are ready to eat. It preserves that crunchy texture of the seaweed sheet. You can add any choice of filling, such as tuna, or umeboshi (a pickled Japanese plum, available from Clearspring). Try using different types of rice, or mixing in other grains. You can also scatter dried seaweed over the top, such as kombu, shony or dulse which come in great little pouches from Mara Seaweed (a local product, all harvested in Scotland!).
I love the idea that the form of the Onigiri comes from being shaped by hand. Try some soon for a picnic lunch.
As always, thank-you to the amazing Chie Kutsuwada, for turning my story into this amazing Manga!