Japan: Onigiri

general

Part 4 of a series

(Read Parts 1 and 2 and 3)

onigiri

For me, Japanese food is just about perfect; low fat, with plenty of vegetables and fish, it feels very healthy and there are all kinds of interesting new flavours to enjoy. With the exception of the traditional sweets, which have the consistency of taste of congealed and sugared wallpaper paste, I could quite happily live on Japanese food indefinitely.

I did, however, become particularly besotted with one Japanese snack: the onigiri1. This is a mass of sticky rice, often formed into a fat disc or — more commonly — a triangle. In the centre of the rice, there's some fish like salmon or tuna, or salmon roe, or perhaps a pickled plum. The whole thing is wrapped in dried seaweed (nori), which makes onigiri perfect for eating on the move.

Almost every snack kiosk and convenience store sells a good variety, which are freshly made. They come wrapped in a really complicated plastic wrapping; so complicated that it comes with illustrated instructions. To prevent the rice making the nori soggy there's a layer of plastic wrapping between the seaweed and the rice, as well as the outer wrapping.

In the picture above, you can probably see that the corners of the parcel are numbered. Being the obedient geek that I am, I made sure that I RTFM2 before I attempted the procedure. First, you pull the tab at corner 1 which splits the outer wrapping in two. Next, you very carefully pull away the plastic at corner 2, which pulls out the inner layer of plastic on one side of the onigiri. Finally, you gently pull off corner 3, and with it the last piece of the inner wrapping. I have to say that when I first tried this on the train, I fully expected to end up with a lap full of rice, and was astounded and quite ecstatic when I found myself holding an intact onigiri. When you pull it off successfully, it's like accomplishing that trick where you pull a tablecloth from under the glasses and crockery without disturbing them.

So, onigiri is a healthy, delicious snack that you can eat on the run without getting sticky fingers, and unwrapping it provides literally minutes of entertainment. What more can you ask for? If you'd like to have a go at making your own, there's a good recipe here, but you won't have the fun of unwrapping it.

1 I'm certain that onigiri can't be both singular and plural, so if you know what the correct forms are, please tell me.

2 Read The F***ing Manual

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