Friday, June 16, 2017

Tuna Onigiri

I am a huge fan of Japanese cuisine.  Sushi, obviously.  But I find it to be such a comforting food culture.  We got to take a trip to Kyoto two winters ago and it is BY FAR my favorite place I have traveled.  NYC would be a close second.  The people were so welcoming.  The three of us idiots knew no Japanese and were very ill-prepared, but never felt like we were a nuisance or unwelcome.  But the food.  The food was everything I want.  Kyoto is particularly known for tofu and vegetarian dishes, but you can find all the typical Japanese food that tourists are looking for like sushi, ramen, soba, tempura, etc.

What I found so fun is eating at convenience stores and grocery stores.  Here is some stuff we got from a grocery store:

Those maki rolls have WAY too much rice (as I write about a recipe that is literally a ball of rice), but I will forgive them this time.  The rest was super good and very affordable.  That box of assorted sushi was less than $5.  On the far left, that is Inari sushi.  It is sushi rice wrapped in this thin piece of tofu that is coated in a sweet glaze.  Birk's fave.    

One of my favorite convenience store/grocery store snacks is the Onigiri.  In the picture below, you can see the 3 Onigiri triangles in the top right corner.  The only trouble we had was that there were so many different types of fillings and our phone translators didn't do a good job telling us what they were!  Surprise every time. 

So what is Onigiri?  It is a triangle ball of rice, filled with fish or veggies, and wrapped in nori.  The rice is typically not seasoned like sushi rice, but could be.  A very friendly filling is a tuna salad, so that is what the recipe below has in it.  It seems so simple, but what does it for me is the crunchy nori.  

You can make these two ways.  The first way is above, using a fancy wrapper (which you can buy here).  The wrapper prevents the rice from touching the nori, which is what makes it crunchy.  These Onigiri are available everywhere in Japan and I have also seen them in big cities like San Francisco and NYC.  They are such a great snack.  I loved them for breakfast.  The second way is in the photo below, just wrapping a normal piece of nori around the rice ball.  The nori will remain crunchy if you eat it right away or if you keep the nori separate from the rice ball until ready to eat.  Or if you want the same texture as sushi (soft nori), you can wrap in advance.

The fun of Onigiri for me is unwrapping it.  Genius packaging!  Here is a video of me unwrapping and eating it.   Trigger warning:  1. horrible video; 2. horrible audio; 3. sort of weird, right?

I like to eat with a little soy sauce, as shown in the video.  Other typical fillings include flaked, cooked salmon or a preserved plum.  I honestly wish I didn't have to make these and could just buy for $1 anywhere, as is the case in Japan.  But they are so satisfying that I will continue to make them until I move to Japan.  

PS:  I know my photography skills are problematic!  I will work on it.  I swear I will not hold every thing I make up to our window and take a back lit photo.  Did you hear the videos? 

Onigiri (filled with Tuna)
by foodforscot

3 cups of cooked sushi/short grain white rice (~1.5 uncooked)
3 full sheets of nori roasted seaweed, cut into thirds (or ~7-9 seaweed wrappers, here)
1 can of tuna, liquid drained
2 tbsp of mayo
2 tbsp of chopped pickles
1/4 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp-1/4 cup of sesame seeds

Prep your rice:  If you need directions on how to cook steamed rice without a rice cooker, see this recipe.  I would recommend that you use a rice cooker because it will always do it better than you.  I have this Cuisinart model and it has horrible reviews because if you make more than 2 cups, it overflows and makes a pretty big mess.  However, it STILL makes better rice than me so I have been using it for almost 10 years.  How am I old enough to EVEN say that.  This is how you write recipes, right?

Prep your filling:  mix together tuna, mayo, pickles, and garlic powder.  Use a fork to mash up tuna so there are not big chunks.  Season with lots of pepper, and salt to taste.

Prep your nori:  if you are using regular nori sheets, cut each sheet into three pieces.  If you are using the wrappers to allow you store and eat later, get all the annoying stickers ready. 


Use a mold (here):  rub your surface with water and sprinkle with a little salt.  Place mold on top.  Place cooked rice to fill half the triangle mold and press to compress.  Add a few spoonfuls of tuna mixture.  Fill the rest of the mold with rice and press to compress.  Sprinkle or roll is sesame seeds, and wrap in nori or wrapper.

Here is a video that shows what I just wrote (your choice if you want to be soothed by the audio):

Without a mold:  Rub your hands with a little water.  Sprinkle salt on hands rub together.  Grab about <1/4 cup of cooked rice.  Using a cupping motion with both hands, form ball.  Make a small indentation in the middle and fill with a spoonful of tuna mixture.  Redip your hands in a bit of water and add another <1/4 cup of rice to cover the tuna mixture.  The amount of rice doesn't need to be exact.  1/3-1/2 cups of rice per Onigiri seems reasonable.  Those numbers seem off based on the video.  Continue to mold using a cupping motion with your hands.  Once ball is formed, you can form into a triangle.  Just watch the video this is impossible to explain.  Sprinkle or roll is sesame seeds, and wrap in nori or wrapper.

Here is a video that shows what I just wrote (one of the creepier things I have done, also audio is optional and probably should be avoided):

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