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Onigiri / Rice Ball

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(A rice ball or onigiri / Image)

Onigiri (お握り or 御握り; おにぎり), also known as omusubi (お結び; おむすび) or rice ball, is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, katsuobushi, kombu, tarako, or any other salty or sour ingredient as a natural preservative. Because of the popularity of onigiri in Japan, most convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors. There are even specialized shops whose only products are onigiri for take out.
In Lady Murasaki's 11th-century diary Murasaki Shikibu Nikki, she writes of people eating rice balls. At that time, onigiri were called tonjiki and often consumed at outdoor picnic lunches. Other writings, dating back as far as the seventeenth century, state that many samurai stored rice balls wrapped in bamboo leaves as a quick lunchtime meal during war, but the origins of onigiri are much earlier even than Lady Murasaki. Before the use of chopsticks became widespread, in the Nara period, rice was often rolled into a small ball so that it could be easily picked up. In the Heian period, rice was also made into small rectangular shapes known as tonjiki so that they could be piled onto a plate and easily eaten.
File:Onigiri lunch by k14 in Niigata.jpg
(Triangular onigiri lunch)

From the Kamakura period to the early Edo period, onigiri was used as a quick meal. This made sense as cooks simply had to think about making enough onigiri and did not have to concern themselves with serving. These onigiri were simply balls of rice flavored with salt. Nori did not become widely available until the Genroku era in the mid-Edo period, when the farming of nori and fashioning it into sheets became widespread.
File:Onigiri at a convenience store by typester in Kamakura.jpg
(Onigiri at a convenience store in Kamakura)
File:Onigiri at an onigiri restaurant by zezebono in Tokyo.jpg
(Onigiri at an onigiri restaurant in Tokyo)

It was believed that onigiri could not be mass produced as the hand-rolling technique was considered too difficult for a machine to replicate.[who?] In the 1980s, however, a machine that made triangular onigiri was devised. This was initially met with skepticism because, rather than having the filling traditionally rolled inside, the flavoring was simply put into a hole in the onigiri, and the hole was hidden by nori. Since the onigiri made by this machine came with nori already applied to the rice ball, over time the nori became unpleasantly moist and sticky, clinging to the rice. A packaging improvement allowed the nori to be stored separately from the rice. Before eating, the diner could open the packet of nori and wrap the onigiri. The limitation of the machines that required using a hole for filling the onigiri instead of rolling the filling with the rice actually made new flavors of onigiri easier to produce as this cooking process did not require changes from ingredient to ingredient.

By JS on May 16, 2011

tag : Rice Ball



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