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Rice balls ("onigiri") can be bought at any supermarket and convenience store and come in all kinds of varieties. Learn how to open the special packages that keeps them fresh, and enjoy these delicious and healthy snacks!
One of Japan's soul foods is considered to be the rice ball, or onigiri.
Onigiri are often made at home for putting in bento lunches for people of all ages, but they can also be bought at supermarkets and convenience stores for a very cheap price of around 100 to 200 yen.
However, those who are not accustomed to eating convenience store onigiri might be struggling to open their package.
"What do I do with this?" "How do I eat this?" "What on earth is this black strip covering the rice...?"
Many rice balls in Japan contain rice, a savory filling, and seaweed. The ingredient used as a filling may be Japanese apricot (ume), kelp (kombu), cod roe (tarako), or salmon (sake). The combination of this ingredient with rice allows you to enjoy a solid flavor along with plain rice. The black strip covering the rice ball is edible seaweed (nori).
Let's learn how to open a rice ball. After you read this, you have nothing to fear about convenience store onigiri!
First, place the rice ball so that it's facing you. On its top point you will notice a tip that is marked with "1".
Hold this tip between your thumb and finger (typically your forefinger),
and pull straight downwards to the bottom.
Next, pull the corner that is marked with "2" on the right. The trick is to smoothly pull in the right direction without twisting.
If done correctly, half of the rice and the outer seaweed will be exposed. Convenience store rice balls purposely separate the rice and seaweed so that the seaweed won't lose its crispiness.
Lastly, pull the corner marked with "3;" pull it to the right.
Just like before, the other half of the crispy seaweed will be exposed, and the rice will naturally be wrapped in seaweed.
After this, it's ready to be eaten! Onigiri are eaten like a sandwich--just pick it up and enjoy.
For people eating onigiri for the first time: the nori is especially crispy and may make a mess if you eat it too quickly. if you wait a few minutes before eating, the seaweed will adhere better to the rice, making it easier and less messy to eat.
Convenience store rice balls come in many varieties. Rice balls made with rice steamed with red adzuki beans (sekihan, or "red rice"), rice seasoned with soy sauce and boiled with meat or seafood and other vegetables (takikomigohan), or rice steamed with red beans and other vegetables (okowa), are not sold wrapped in seaweed.
The way to open these types of rice balls is basically the same as above.
As shown below,
pull all the way to the bottom. The rice will become partially visible.
Stop pulling here!
If you pull off the plastic wrapping completely for seaweed-less rice balls, the rice will stick to your hands and make your hands sticky. Intentionally leave the left half unwrapped, so that you can hold that side and eat without getting your hands dirty.
Hand-rolled sushi (temakizushi) is a casual type of sushi. It's also known as a sushi roll in many countries.
The contents is the same as a regular rice ball; rice, a main ingredient, and seaweed. Does this mean the only difference between a rice ball and a hand-rolled sushi is the shape? Wrong. Hand-rolled sushi uses vinegared rice (sumeshi), the kind of rice used for all types of sushi. Depending on the main ingredient, a hand-rolled rice ball may contain wasabi as well.
So, let's open this hand roll with a natto filling.
First, find the place marked with "1" as in the following picture,
and pull downwards.
When opened, you will see a cylinder-shaped stick of rice and seaweed wrapped in cellophane.
Unwrap the cellophane covering the rice, and remove the plastic covering the seaweed on the right side as shown below.
Roll the stick of rice over to the exposed side of seaweed on the right.
After shifting the rice onto the exposed seaweed, pull off the plastic wrapping off the left side of the seaweed.Wrap the rice with the newly exposed seaweed as follows
And it's complete! Eat this handroll like you would an onigiri--with your hands.
A convenience store rice ball is great when you're in a hurry or when you're looking for a cheap meal, or even when you want to casually enjoy a Japanese cuisine. Use these tips to master how to open a convenience store rice ball and try out their various types and flavors!