Onigiri   おにぎり

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A plum (ume) onigiri

Onigiri are so well-loved you can buy various themed goods and souvenirs...

Onigiri on the shelves in a konbini

A grilled salmon-filled onigiri


How cute! Onigiri for children are often decorated

Rice triangles

This triangular-shaped rice treat will make anyone appreciate geometry!

Anyone who has already traveled to Japan will have noticed in konbini aisles or on the menus of izakaya, these small triangular rice balls (yes, that's possible) wrapped in a sheet of seaweed, or nori in Japanese.

Traditionally, onigiri are filled with salty condiments and/or cured ingredients that keep well (including umeboshi, salted plums). But with modern technology helping to keep onigiri cool until they're ready to be eaten, they can now be stuffed with tuna mayonnaise or raw fish.

Very cheap (from ¥100 in most konbini) and nourishing, onigiri are comparable to sandwiches, but are usually more of a snack: eaten on the run, between appointments, or during a family outing, onigiri are excellent picnic food.

Bermuda Triangle 

However, the opening of a onigiri from a konbini may be difficult for the uninitiated. Onigiri are actually doubly wrapped in plastic, the first layer separates the seaweed sheet from the rice to keep it dry and crisp, and the second is to protect the onigiri as a whole. You must therefore remove the two layers carefully, so as not to tear the seaweed or break the onigiri. This video will help you understand how to unwrap an onigiri:

As for flavors, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate, especially when it's written in Japanese. Here is a quick guide:

うなぎ   eel

ツナマヨ   tuna mayonnaise

サルモン (or 鮭)   salmon

明太子   spicy cod roe

鱈子   salted hake roe

チキンマヨ   chicken mayonnaise

イクラ   salmon roe

Vegetarian Onigiri :

梅   plum

野沢菜   pickled turnip 

チーズ   cheese

キムチ   Korean spicy pickled cabbage (kimchi)

赤飯   azuki and black sesame rice

The rice can also be flavored with seaweed flakes, sesame oil, or dried bonito.

There are also more sophisticated onigiri which you can eat at restaurants,  such as yaki onigiri, an onigiri covered with miso or soy sauce and then grilled so it's crispy on the outside. Some restaurants also serve ochazuke onigiri: onigiri served in a bowl of tea (or broth).

Rice art

Onigiri can become true works of art in Japan, shaped into small characters made of rice and decorated with nori.

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