Comfort food takes on different forms in other places. While Americans scarf down pizza, queso dip, and slippery, cheese coated macaroni, people all over the world are being comforted by entirely different sorts of foods.
Rice balls are one of those different sorts. They are slightly sweet, a little sticky, and usually smothered with salty or spicy toppings. When we were living in Beijing, one of my favorite treats was the pre-packaged onigiri at 7-11. I'll never forget peeling of the cellophane wrapper and biting through the shiny seaweed, and into a kimchi stuffed ball of happiness.
I thought my onigiri days were behind me until I re-discovered the treat here in Austin. First, at the Love Balls Bus, then later at East Side Kings. Everyone has their own preference for prepping and topping onigiri. My personal favorite is Yaki Onigiri, which involves searing the rice balls on two sides, and serving it hot. I wrap my piping hot rice ball in a sheet of nori, pile it up with scallions and bonito flakes, then drizzle Japanese mayo and Sriracha sauce all over it.
There may or may not be soy sauce to dip them in.
- 1 cup cooked rice (short grain white, short grain brown, or brown/wild blend)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 small avocado
- sliced scallions
- dried bonito flakes
- Japanese mayo
- Sriracha sauce
- soy sauce
You'll need a mold for your rice balls, unless you are super-fancy and can manage to make pretty shapes by hand. (In which case I applaud you.) Molds are wicked cheap. I use this one that I found on Amazon: Sushi Mold (Triangle, White)
- Combine the rice vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl, and mix until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the vinegar mixture to the rice, and stir gently, making sure the rice is evenly coated.
- Fill the mold loosely with the rice, then use the top to push it down.
- Poke a little hole in the middle of the rice with your finger. Place a small piece of avocado in the hole.
- Fill the mold with rice again, the use the top to push it down.
- Flip the mold over, and gently tap it out.
- Heat a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Once the pan is nice and hot, add a thin coating of oil or cooking spray.
- Place the rice balls on the pan, and allow them to cook until the bottoms become golden brown.
- Carefully flip the balls over and cook the other side until it turns golden brown.
So there you have it, my favorite Japanese comfort food. Have you tried onigiri? What's your favorite way to eat it?