Onigiri rice balls: Japan’s comfort food

20 Feb 2019 in Food Culture

How to cook onigiri? Where to eat them? Discover all in our guide!


If you’ve ever been in a Japanese convenience store, you’ve probably come across onigiri. They’re the ubiquitous rice balls, usually wrapped with nori seaweed, that line the fridges at the back of the store.



They’re typically triangular in shape, although they may be rounded or cylindrical, and are filled with a variety of ingredients. You could call them Japan’s comfort food, the equivalent of the sandwich in the West.


Favourite fillings include pickled plums, salmon, dried kelp, fish roe and tuna mayonnaise. It’s the ideal snack food and a vital ingredient of most bento lunchboxes. Be warned, though, that an individually-wrapped onigiri can be challenging to unwrap!

The nori is specially packaged in a separate layer so it doesn’t touch the rice. This keeps it fresher – and, if you use the right technique, the onigiri will neatly wrap itself in the nori as you take off the plastic!


Fancy making your own onigiri?

The classic recipe uses steamed Japanese short-grain rice. Make sure your hands are slightly wet before you take the rice, add the filling of your choice, and then shape and wrap in nori. You can also use fried, brown or mixed rice.


One of the best places to sample fresh onigiri is Bongo, a specialist restaurant next-door to Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka.

Famed for its large onigiri, it’s a great place to sit down at the counter and watch your food being made. The rice is warm, the nori crispy and the fillings extremely generous!

Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka





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