These rice balls are a revelation. So simple and so easy. Apparently, in Japan they are eaten in the same way we eat sandwiches. So, what makes them so good and so easy? The answer clearly is not that obvious – otherwise we would be eating them all the time. You have to put your mind to the physics of making rice stay in a ball, then it does become obvious – stickiness. And sushi rice is nothing if not sticky. The same property that ensures the rice stick to your hands – and makes it almost impossible to manipulate – now works in our favour by sticking to itself.
The revelations continue when you realise you can put just about anything in with the rice and that they can be cooked in differently styles. I immediately thought of arancini. The arancini version is particularly successful – and (ahem…) I have to admit an improvement upon the Italian versions (…sorry!) The size is more appealing and the ‘filling’ is much easier to work with.
1. Onigiri Rice Balls
A recipe is not really necessary. It’s common sense really: take some cooked sushi rice (don’t add sushi dressing) and mix with other ingredients. Form into balls and serve with a dressing. I had a soup bowl full of leftover rice and I used 150g of shitaki mushrooms – this made about 10 onigiri. I put the chopped mushrooms in a wok with a lid and some oil and put the heat on low and waited for the moisture to be released from the mushrooms then I turned the heat up and fried and seasoned. I added a little chicken stock and cooked until absorbed in the mushrooms then I mixed in the rice. Form into balls using cling film – then moisten your hands and finish into a neat ball. Garnish with chives or other mini leaves or herbs or sesame seeds. They worked really well with simple soy sauce, but other Japanese dressings would also be good.
2/3. Onigiri with Panko Crumbs and Deep Fried
Then I fried some in oil and then coated others in flour/egg/panko crumbs and deep fried and served with a sweet chilli sauce.
I shall continue to explore other variations…