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"Onigiri" Tuna Mayo Riceballs

"Onigiri" - the humble riceball - is as old as rice cultivation itself in Japan and may just lay claim to being the world's original fast food. Onigiri riceballs are simplicity itself to prepare although according to a recent survey, most people buy them prepared from convenience stores these days rather than making them. Whenever you have made some rice and there is some leftover, just think "onigiri" as a way to use up that leftover for today's supper or tomorrow's lunch.

The original onigiri riceball would have been a humble affair - perhaps just a ball of rice itself or rice sprinkled with a little salt for flavour and as a short term preservative. (Remember in olden times, salt was a very precious commodity.) At some point, someone had the idea of concealing another food within the onigiri - perhaps a piece of sour pickled plum or a small nugget of dried fish flakes. Nowadays, of course, imagination is in the only limit to what people can put in their onigiri riceball - fried spam onigiri, anyone? (Actually, I quite like the sound of that!)

These days, there are five uber-popular onigiri fillings that everyone in Japan seems to love - salmon, tuna mayo, cod roe, kombu (kelp) and pickled plum. In this recipe, I show you how to make my personal favourite - onigiri with tuna mayo.

Now, when it comes to making a rice ball, there are a number of ways you can go about it.

First, there is the original method - bare hands. This involves wetting your hands (to prevent the rice sticking), taking about 2 large dessertspoons to rice in your hands and molding into a rough ball shape. Next, you use your thumb to make a hole in your onigiri . With your other hand, you spoon in your filling of choice and then close over the hole. Finally, you use both hands again to mold your rice ball into the classic triangular onigiri shape. And voila! You have made an onigiri rice ball!

The second method, which I am going to show you below, involves the use of a square of clingfilm instead of wetting your hands. Put the clingfilm (about 25cm / 10 in square) on a plate and spoon your rice into the centre. Then place your filling in the centre of the rice. Next, carefully take up the clingfilm in the palm of one hand and use the other hand to fold the clingfilm and the rice over the filling. Once that is done, use both hands to form the rice into a ball. You can used the clingfilm like a muslin clother here to tighten the rice grains into a nce firm ball. Last, as with the traditional method, use your hands to form the triangular "onigiri" shape. You can use the same piece of clingfilm a number of times to produce any number of onigiri. You don't even need to dispose of it - just a light rinse under the tap and you can re-use it a second time.

The third way to make onigiri rice balls, which you can find in one of my other posts, is to use an onigiri mold. Some people think using a mold is a bit of a cheat but I have to admit, it is a quick method to produce really neat, uniform onigiri - great if you are making a large batch for a party, for example and want a nice look for presentation. A basic mold consists of an onigiri shaped mold with a little plastic lid. All you do is wet the mold and lid with a little water. Then, you put in half your rice, then our filling, then more rice. Place the lid on the rice and press down to form your onigiri. Hey presto, one onigiri! It really is that easy. You can buy cheap onigiri molds online - not only are they convenient but you can use them time and time again. The downside of using a mold is that you can't change the size of the onigiri - dinky little onigiri made with a mold are fine but sometimes, I like to make some nice big onigiri like the ones here.

When you have made your onigiri, it only remains to dress it with some nori. Why nori? Well, it is good for you - think of all those nice trace elements you get from this mighty weed - and it stops your fingers getting sticky when you eat. (It is de rigeur to eatan onigiri with your hands - no chopsticks or forks, thank you!)

You can either cut a 1/2 sheet of nori into strips and sit the onigiri into the strip as I do here. Or, you can use 2 1/2 sheets and wrap the nori completely in a parcel.

Eat your onigiri as soon as possible after making. Although these are almost a meal in themselves, they also ake a great pairing with miso soup or a leaf salad.

So, have I put you in an onigiri frame of mind? If I have you can find the Youtube tutorial by clicking Onigiri Tuna Mayo or just scroll to the bottom of the page. You can find the written recipe just below.

Happy molding! Kurumi XXXX.



(makes 2 large onigiri tuna mayo rice balls)

250g / 9 oz cooked Japanese rice

2 heap tsps of canned tuna flakes (either tuna in brine or oil is fine)

2 tsp mayonnaise

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 nori sheet cut into 2 X 3cm / 1.5 in wide strips

some cling film


how to:

to make the tuna mayo. mix 2 heaped teaspoons of tuna flakess and 2 tsp of mayonnaise in a bowl, then set aside

cut your 25cm / 10 in square of nori cling film

spoon out 125g / 4.5 oz of cooked rice onto the clingfilm. sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt over the rice

next, place 1/2 of the tuna mayo into the centre of the rice

now lift the rice in the cling film and place in the palm of one hand. used your other hand to pull the rice over the tuna mayo and form into a rought ball. use your hands to firm the rice ball and mold it into a triangular shape. remove the finished onigiri from the clingfilm

repeat for onigiri #2

just before eating, wrap each onigiri with a strip of nori


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