Vegan recipes: This onigiri recipe is easy japanese cooking for beginners, quick to make and oh-so-pretty. You can play with your food AND make whiskers out of seaweed. Kawaii!
Cooking beginners often fear Japanese cooking because of its reputation for delicacy and exotic ingredients. A struggle, perhaps, for those who feel challenged when asked to hunt down and prepare a slice of peanut butter on toast.
Now, this onigiri recipe (pretty, sticky rice) is not only vegetarian but vegan. It only uses two relatively exotic ingredients, rice vinegar and seaweed sheets. The good news is that many big supermarkets stock these ingredients – and they won’t go off, so you won’t need to use them up when they’re fresh. You can just keep them in the back of your cupboard for ever and ever, like a rail of coats leading to Narnia, then use them when you want to.
Lastly, onigiri really is easy to make. We’ve got the heat, the timings and everything. And it looks pretty. And it gives you an excuse to play with your food using your hands.
As if you needed an excuse, you dirty urchin!
Onigiri recipe ingredients (feeds about 2)
- 200g Japanese sushi rice, alternatively use short grain rice
- 250ml water
- 2 tablespoons of Japanese rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Yaki-nori (toasted seaweed sheets)
How to make onigiri
1. Wash hands and make sure all surfaces are clean (after all, cleanliness is close to Godliness).
2. You can cook the rice in two ways. The hard way, and the easy way. For all those savvy people who have a rice cooker, your job just got a lot easier. Simply put 250ml of water into your rice cooker for every 200g of rice you use (do remember to add the rice into the cooker along with the water, otherwise all you’ll end up with is boiled water – perfect for a cuppa, not so good for rice). Different rice cookers take slightly different amounts of time to cook rice, so be patient. If you do have a rice cooker, and you’ve put your rice and water in to cook, you can go straight to step 5.
3. For all those without a rice cooker (how have you managed to survive without one?), just put the rice into a large bowl and fill it with enough water so that all the rice is submerged. Then add a little more just to be sure. Before you can cook the rice you must first wash it, so stir the rice (with one of your lovely, clean hands) and then drain the water out. You should repeat this process at least two or three times, or until the water you drain off the rice is clear.
4. Now place the rice in a strainer, or sieve, and leave to drain for about 20-30 minutes.
5. While you are waiting for your rice to drain (or cook), prepare your sushi vinegar. Get a medium bowl and pour into it 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar. Next add 1 tablespoon of sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix it well, but don’t be worried if not all the salt and sugar dissolves. Put the mixture to one side for use later. Those with a rice cooker can skip step 6 and go onto step 7.
6. All those who’ve been waiting for your rice to drain; now it is time to cook it. Transfer your drained rice into a medium saucepan. Then, for every 200g of rice you used, add 250ml of water into the saucepan. Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring the mixture to boil, then reduce heat and simmer on a low heat for 12 minutes (or until all the water is absorbed). It is very important that the saucepan remains tightly covered while the rice is simmering, if it doesn’t it will not cook properly. Once the rice is cooked remove it from the heat (still carefully covered) and leave it to stand for 10 minutes.
7. Now that your rice is cooked you need to transfer it into a large bowl from your saucepan or rice cooker (remember to be careful, the rice will be hot). Once the rice is in the bowl use a spatula or spoon to break up the rice a bit. Gradually add in the sushi vinegar you made earlier. It is important that the rice does not become soggy or wet, so you don’t necessarily need to add all of the sushi vinegar.
8. After you’ve added the sushi vinegar, keep breaking up the rice. Also make sure to turn it and fluff it up a bit. This will allow air to cool the rice and save your fingers from burns.
9. Once your sushi rice is nicely fluffed cover the bowl with a clean, damp cloth. You can now make your Onigiri (rice balls). Fill a medium bowl with warm water and dissolve some salt into it. Before you handle the rice dip your hands into the salt water, this will stop it from sticking to you, but don’t worry, it will not make your rice really salty.
10. Make sure that you make your Onigiri while the rice is still warm. Scoop out enough rice that will comfortably fit in your palm. Making Onigiri into a shape is very similar to making snowballs; you must squeeze and compress the rice to get it to stick together into the shape you want. Some examples of rice ball shapes are shown in the pictures included, but feel free to go a little crazy and make your Onigiri into whatever wild and wonderful forms you can come up with.
11. When you have your complete Onigiri, put it to one side to set and move onto the next one. If you want to decorate your Onigiri cut shapes out of the toasted seaweed sheets and press them onto the Onigiri. They should stick to the rice so long as you press them on while the rice is still warm. Alternatively cut shapes out of vegetables like red pepper and use them to decorate your rice balls.
12. Once all your Onigiri are made, cover them and store them in the fridge. The rice should take about 1-1 ½ hours to cool and the rice balls can be made about 4 hours before being eaten. It is very important that you do not re-heat the rice.
Original artwork: Plua