Onigiri are easy to make, and all the ingredients are available in most American supermarkets. Hand formed balls of rice with a savory filling, wrapped in nori seaweed, these are a perfect picnic snack. My favorite filling is ume-boshi, Japanese pickled plums. Canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise is a popular filling, and one that doesn’t require a trip to a specialty grocer.
filling of your choice
Cooking good sushi rice in a pan requires patience and precision, a rice cooker makes it easy. In whichever vessel you’ll cook it in, rinse the rice in several changes of cool water, until the water runs clear. Cook the rice. When it is done, spread it on a plate to cool slightly.
Mix a few spoonfuls of salt into a bowl of cool water. It should taste like sea water. Dip your (very clean) hands into the water: to season the rice and keep it from sticking to your hands.
Cradle a small handful of rice in one hand. Make an indentation in the middle. Place a teaspoon or less of your filling in the indentation. Press another small handful of rice on top.
Traditionally, onigiri is shaped into a triangle. Bend your hands into right angles, and press the rice into the angle of your hand. Rotate and squeeze the onigiri to form its corners (nigiri means squeeze).
Wrap a small piece of nori around the onigiri. To preserve its crunch, wait to add the seaweed until you are ready to eat.
*Japanese markets and some grocery stores carry small strips of seasoned nori, perfect for onigiri. If you can’t find those, cut sheets of sushi nori to a manageable size (to make them extra delicious, you can brush them with soy sauce and toast them for a few seconds under a broiler).