Onigiri! This is a recipe for a little snack that accompanied my childhood years in Taiwan. Found in all of the 7–11 or convenience stores, these triangle-shaped rice balls were many of my breakfast, lunch and late-night snacks.
Even though I have never been to Japan, Taiwanese culture is a culture that is greatly influenced by Japan — who ruled over Taiwan in the 1800s. Some of the influence can be found in old Japanese buildings that are now tea houses or galleries, neat lines at the MRT, my grandpa who spoke Japanese, and a millennial generation that is all about Japanese culture.
These onigiri’s! I remember standing in my school uniform (white collared shirt, pleated skirt, bright orange hat), eagerly choosing my flavour of the day. My favourites — pork floss with mayo, egg, salmon, or chicken teriyaki. Sometimes I would opt out of onigiri’s and go for the traditional Taiwanese rice balls. A heavier version made with sticky rice, fried salty donut, radish pickles, stuffed with pork floss and sprinkled with peanut sugar. They were heavy enough to fill you for hours and go down your tummy very well with a cup of soy milk.
There is something about rolling and shaping warm rice together in your palms. I don’t know if it is the scent of warm rice or act of making onigiri’s that make me want to eat them immediately after. These are great as snacks on the go, picnics, a light meal, or give away and impress your friends.
Tuna Onigiri Rice Balls
1 cup uncooked sushi rice
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 green onion stem, thinly sliced (you can also use cucumber)
1 can of tuna in salted water
1/2 avocado, diced
2 tbs greek yogurt (or mayo)
1 nori sheet, cut into small rectangles
Wash rice in a sieve until water is clear. Add 1.5 cup of water and cook until rice is tender. About 15 mins. Let cool.
While rice is cooking, mix can of tuna (squeeze saltwater out with lid when you open the can), avocado, green onions and greek yogurt. Mash and add salt and pepper to taste
Gently fluff rice with a fork. Fold in sugar, rice wine vinegar and salt with a spatula. Don’t over mix.
Place a piece of saran wrap on your hand and measure 1/3 cup of seasoned rice into the wrap. Flatten rice into a flat shape and create an indent in the centre. Spoon in tuna filling and gently form rice into a ball using the saran wrap.
Using your hands, form the rice ball into a triangle. Take off the plastic wrap and wrap a piece of nori around the bottom.
The trick to a good onigiri to use rice that is freshly cooked and slightly warm. I felt very Japanese waking up at 7 am to make these for lunch. They will keep for a while in a sealed box in the fridge.
The original recipe called for cucumber but I found the green onions to be a nice change.
I made these again and mixed in a few spoonfuls of furikake. They were delicious and disappeared very fast at the potluck I brought them to. Enjoy!