Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Onigiri Rice Balls with Furikake Sprinkles

Rice Balls in Japan

Onigiri rice balls are ubiquitous in Japan and are easily found in grocery stores and quick marts like 7-11. They are the staple of many an obento lunch box and an excellent base for a trim waistline. Onigiri rice balls accommodate many kinds of flavors. Some have a tasty morsel like an ume pickled plum, tuna with mayo, or a bit of salty salmon nestled inside lightly salted rice. Some have a seasoning mixture like furikake sprinkled on or in with the rice.

Furikake rice sprinkles come in a variety of flavor packets and are easy to store. Below are two kinds of furikake rice sprinkles. One, goma shio, has black sesame seeds and salt, and the other,  yukari, is from the purple leaves of the perilla plant mixed with salt. Look for  furikake sprinkles in an Asian food store-- there are numerous varieties.

Adding nori seaweed sheets as an outside wrap is a healthy addition, but onigiri rice balls are also eaten on their own, naked. They should be eaten the day they are made. Wrap the onigiri with plastic wrap if they will not be consumed immediately. This will keep them fresh and lock in their moisture.

As summer approaches, these handy rice balls offer sustenance in the heat, energy to climb mountains, and your swimsuit will thank you later. They are healthy for your body, easy to make, portable, and delicious.

JAPANESE RICE INSTRUCTIONS
You must start with a Japanese style of rice, a short or medium grain rice. It is sometimes labeled as sushi rice. The shape is generally rounder and fatter in the middle than other kinds of rice. (The Italian aborrio is not the same thing.) Rice balls do not work with other kinds of rice. Measure the rice so that it is level-- no extra, no less-- using either 3/4 cup measure or a Japanese rice cup, which is a 3/4 cup measure that comes with many rice cookers. Wash the rice. Put the rice in a bowl with water, swirl it around with your hand for several minutes, drain off all of the the water. Repeat until the water runs clear or nearly clear, about 3 times. Allow the rice to drain about 30 minutes. Add equal amounts of (dry) rice measured to equal amounts of water. In a rice cooker, follow your instructions. If you don't have a rice cooker, use a heavy bottom pot with a tight fitting lid, bring the rice to boil over medium heat, immediately cover with the lid and reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer until the water is gone and the rice is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Idatakimasu I humbly receive,
Kim


Onigiri Rice Balls with Furikake Sprinkles
Ingredients
Cooked Japanese short or medium grain rice, 1 cup per 3 onigiri needed
Furikake rice sprinkles, 1 Tbsp (adjust to taste!) such as Gomashio Sesame and salt or Yukari

Equipment
Sturdy plastic wrap or a bowl of water and some heat tolerant hands
Small bowl or ramekin for portioning out the rice
Rice paddle for scooping out the rice and packing it into the ramekin

What to Do
Stuffed Onigiri
Using a rice paddle, gently mix the cooked rice with a some salt and adjust to taste to lightly season it. The salt acts as a preservative as well. Use a ramekin to portion out the rice. With a rice paddle, fill a ramekin with rice and gently pat it down. Turn the rice out and onto a plate or sheet until all of the rice is used up. Hold back a chuck of the rice. Use either a bowl of water and your wet hands or a piece of plastic wrap to form each loose portion of rice into a firm, dense rice ball. Firmly press the rice together forming it into either a triangle or round shape, keep the sides flat and the edges smooth. Hold the loosely shaped rice in one hand and use your opposite hand to apply firm pressure and shape the onigiri. The rice needs to stick together so press firmly, but you don't need to smash it. Shapes get better with practice. Press from the edge into the center to create a pocket. Place a bit of chopped ume or tuna with a dab of mayo inside the indent. Press gently around the top of of the enclosure to seal it. Add back the chunk you put aside to the top of the hole and gently apply pressure to shape the onigiri and encase the treat. Please note: the plastic is there to prevent your hands from getting too hot and not for pulling it so tight it breaks-- use your hands to apply firm pressure to bring the rice together.

Sprinkle Onigiri
Using a rice paddle, gently mix a cup of cooked rice with a tablespoon of furikake rice sprinkles such as sesame and salt or yukari, adjust to taste. Use a ramekin to portion out the rice. With a rice paddle, fill a ramekin with rice and gently pat it down. Turn the rice out and onto a plate or sheet until all of the rice is used up. I get 3 onigiri from a cup of rice using my ramekin, but this will vary depending on the container used. Use either a bowl of water and your wet hands or a piece of plastic wrap to form each loose portion of rice into a firm, dense rice ball. Firmly press the rice together forming it into either a triangle or round shape, keep the sides flat and the edges smooth. Hold the loosely shaped rice in one hand and use your opposite hand to apply firm pressure and shape the onigiri. The rice needs to stick together so press firmly, but you don't need to smash it. Shapes get better with practice. Please note: the plastic is there to prevent your hands from getting too hot and not for pulling it so tight it breaks-- use your hands to apply firm pressure to bring the rice together.

Triangle shape: Place the base edge of the onigiri into the palm of your left hand (non dominant), keep your thumb down so as not to press into the rice and use your fingers to gently hold the rice in place. The rice should be sitting up. Drape your right hand (dominant) over the top. Cup your hand to form a triangle. Apply firm downward pressure. Turn and repeat to shape each corner of the triangle.

Round shape: Lay the loosely formed rice on its side into the palm and fingers of your left hand (non dominant) with your thumb draping over the top side. Cup your right hand (dominant) and firmly press inward along the outer edges. The round shape is formed as you turn the rice.

Prep Time: 10 minutes (if you have cooked rice)
Yield: 3 uniform onigiri rice balls
A rice maker is handy
Furikake Rice Sprinkles: black sesame & salt and Yukari
Hot cooked rice
Gently mix the furikake sprinkles into the rice with a paddle
Use a ramekin for uniform portions for your rice balls
Loosely portioned onigiri rice balls
Plastic wrapped onigiri rice balls ready to go