Onigiri

16 May

In Hayao Miyazaki’sSen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)” there is a scene where Haku, offers Sen, an onigiri (rice ball) , and tells her to eat so she can keep up her spirits.  As Sen eats them, she starts crying – and although this is an animated film, it brought me to tears.  There’s something comforting about the weight and feel of an onigiri, as well as a very familiar smell of rice, nori (seaweed) and depending on the seasoning, the fragrant smells of ume-shiso (pickled plum and perilla leaves) powder, or nutty sesame seeds.  My mother packed triangular ones – and we often took onigiri and boiled eggs on road trips as a quick meal.  I still remember the weight of the onigiri in my hands, a palpable souvenir of mother’s love in the form of a simple rice ball – portable sustenance and a reflection of Japanese culinary, cultural, and  historic reverence for rice.

Jiji and Baba suggested I start making onigiri for my older daughter’s mini-lunch at Japanese school, so I took on the challenge.  I bought a small bag of sprouted brown rice at the Japanese store, and had a fresh batch of steamed rice ready on Saturday morning.

I made two types.  One type had a pre-mixed onigiri seasoning I received in a care package – and the other one had a center of mentaiko or seasoned pollack roe.  I mixed the onigiri seasoning into some fresh rice, and after it was well incorporated, I wet my hands, took a deep breath, and started making the onigiri.

Based on the photo of my first try – I don’t think I did too poorly.  Perhaps a bit misshapen – and a little lopsided… but it tasted fine!  My older daughter had one for breakfast, and took one for lunch – I did the same.

On our ride home, she told me, “Mama, can you make the rice-ballie again?”

I’ll have to figure out how to increase other grains while retaining the rice’s stickiness.  Practice will make perfect… I just have to prepare to eat a lot of my mistakes!

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26 Responses to “Onigiri”

  1. Chandra May 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    Your kitchen table is where I first had onigiri. Made, of course, by your mom. I think of that moment every time I see them.

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