Onigiri (Rice Ball)
Onigiri (pronounced oh-NEE-gee-ree), also known as omusubi, are often called “rice balls” in English. While they are certainly made from rice, they are usually shaped by hand into a triangle or cylinder. It is indisputably one of the most popular and enduring foods in Japan, with the earliest mention of onigiri in literature appearing roughly 1300 years ago. The onigiri as we know it today took shape in the Edo period (1600-1868) with the addition of nori. In modern Japan, onigiri is an essential item for any outing, picnic, or lunchbox. For many Japanese people, onigiri tastes like home. Contrary to popular belief, onigiri is not at all like sushi!
If onigiri represents tradition, then onigirazu is all about modernity. A fad that originally took off in the 1980s and has recently enjoyed a major revival, onigirazu is an innovative remix of onigiri that reflects modern Japan’s global tastes. While the essential elements remain the same (rice, nori, seasonings), the key differences between onigiri and onigirazu are the shape and the fillings. Onigirazu are flat and similar to a sandwich, with layers of rice and fillings encased in a nori wrap. Just like a sandwich, the fillings are limited only by the chef’s imagination – lettuce, ham, cheese, eggs, avocado, tomatoes, even fried chicken, BBQ pork, or bacon! Keep an eye out for Rice Works’ upcoming line of onigirazu!