It’s the 4th of July this week! Independence Day! Happy Birthday America! We’re going camping to celebrate. But before we go, I thought I’d share a little recipe. And because I’m all about being timely and stuff, I thought this would be a good week to share . . . onigiris!
For those of you who may not be familiar with Japanese culture, onigiris could be considered a “Japanese sandwich.” I thought it might be good to share because, even if it is America’s birthday this week, it’s also picnic season. And onigiris are pretty good picnic food. Pop some rice cakes in some tupperware, mix up a simple tuna salad, toss the seaweed sheets (nori) in your picnic basket and you’re good to go.
When Micah and I were in Japan, we would pick up a couple of onigiris at 7-11 (actually, in Japan it is the “7&iHoldings”) to eat while we rode the Shinkansen (bullet train) or walked around whatever city we were in. But my relationship with them actually goes back a decade, to when Micah and I were engaged. Micah taught me to make them and I thought they were pretty awesome.
They would have become a staple in our lives then, but, of course, not every store carries nori, so it does take some planning to keep them on hand. You can get them at Asian food stores, of course. Some health food stores carry them. And, of course, there’s Amazon. If you’re in a pinch, you could maybe “deconstruct” your onigiri and scoop some rice in a bowl, add some tuna or salmon salad, and crumble some Trader Joe’s (or Kirkland Signature brand) seaweed snacks on top.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me tell you the rules, and then you can decide how to break them.
Makes approx. 10 onigiris, serving 3-4 as a meal, or 5-6 as a snack
Okay friends, I’m giving you a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions such because I know when you are new to something, it’s easier to become acquainted with it if you are “formally introduced” — such as in a recipe format. However, please know that you can cook as much or as little rice as you want. You can add sesame oil or rice vinegar (or whatever you like in your sushi rice!) to taste. You can use crab or avocado or various other deliciousness as the filling. As I said, feel free to break the rules to make it to your liking.
2 cups uncooked medium grain or sushi rice
4 cups water
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil (optional)
2 tsp. rice vinegar (optional)
1 7-oz. can of tuna or salmon in water
2 T. mayonaise
nori sheets (seaweed paper)
Bring the water, with a sprinkling of salt, to a boil. Add the rice, cover, lower the heat and let simmer about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. (We use a rice cooker, but if you are new to rice and don’t have one, here’s a tutorial.
Once the rice is cooked, uncover, take off the heat, fluff with a fork and let it sit until it is cool enough to handle, but still warm.
While the rice is cooling, mix up the tuna/salmon salad: open the can, drain it, and empty the fish into a bowl. Spoon some mayonnaise in and sprinkle with salt. Mix it all up and taste to be sure it is to your liking.
When the rice is cool enough to handle, stir in the sesame oil and/or rice vinegar if using, then shape it in to cakes: wet your hands, sprinkle with salt, and pick up about 1/2 cup of rice. Mold it into a triangle shape, and use your thumb to make a dimple. This might be kind of difficult to get at first, but you’ll master it before too long. Shape the rest of the rice, placing the finished cakes on a plate (or into a tupperware, if you are taking it on a picnic). (I hope the above photos give a clear idea of what you’re going for.)
When you are ready to serve, scoop some of the tuna/salmon salad into the dimple. Cut a sheet of nori in half (we just crease it and break it), place the filled rice cake in the middle of the seaweed strip, and wrap the rice cake in the seaweed. Take a bite and enjoy.