Today I had no idea what I wanted to eat for lunch. Well, that’s a lie. I knew exactly what I wanted (Japanese style Mapo Tofu made with the House brand mix), but I didn’t have the stuff for it. I knew I had a lot of cans of tuna, too, but didn’t want tuna salad. Solution? Spicy Mayo Onigiri (rice balls). Not the most authentic thing in the world, but tasty American-Japanese fusion.
I’m hooked on the onigiri you can get at Japanese grocery stores, but you can make decent ones at home too and fairly easily with a couple tricks and tips in the recipe below. They are pretty cheap to make and are good for snacks, picnics, or lunches too.
The easy trick to making onigiri at home so you don’t curse loudly while having rice stuck all over your hands is to use saran or cling wrap. I am fortunate to have been taught this trick by someone I once knew. Don’t get disheartened if your first couple come out ugly. You can eat those guys first. You will get the hang of it! Ganbatte!
You can fill them with anything you want, really, as long as it isn’t too liquid-y. I also wouldn’t recommend too dry of filling either, otherwise you will be doing that thing dogs do when they eat peanut butter. Other fillings I have made: ume plum, garlic/ginger/mashed Japanese pumpkin (kabocha), avocado, dashi/soy/mirin simmered shiitake mushrooms, you name it… Other possibilities: California roll filling, fukujinzuke, kampyo, veggies/meat stewed in Japanese curry (without too much of the sauce), chicken salad, mapo tofu …who knows!
Spicy Tuna Onigiri
Makes 5 rice balls, approximately 220 calories per rice ball
- 1/2 can tuna in water (I used Kirkland Albacore), liquid drained and tuna broken up into much smaller pieces
- 3 cups plain cooked white rice (preferably short grain, maybe medium grain), cooled
- 1 small green onion, chopped finely
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (or more or less, depending on how spicy you want it)
- 5 pieces nori for onigiri (like pictured), or 2 pieces sushi nori cut into 3 long strips
- Saran or other cling wrap (don’t worry, you’re not going to eat this…but I just don’t want you to forget, because you’ll definitely need it to make the rice balls.)
Make sure you have the rice cooked and cooled! You don’t want to scald your hands. I’m impatient, so sometimes after it finishes cooking, I spread it on a plate and put it in the freezer to cool. >_> (…but don’t forget about it!)
Mix tuna, green onion, mayo, sriracha, and sesame seeds in a bowl. You don’t want any big chunks of tuna.
Lay out a square of saran wrap about the size of a piece of paper (at least 10″x10″) on your cutting board, plop a little less than 1/5th of the rice on it.
Smoosh the rice down until it comes pretty compact. You don’t have to obliterate it, but there shouldn’t be any big air holes. You basically are making a rice patty that is flat, round and a bit bigger than the palm of your hand (or maybe the same size for you, I have tiny, chubby hands).
Unfold the saran wrap from the top of the patty. Make an indentation in the middle of the rice patty (you can use the saran wrap that is hanging off the side) and kind of form it up with the curve of your hand so it becomes like…hm, I guess kind of like a contact lens? A well for mashed potatoes? Use whichever analogy makes your rice look like the picture.
Plop a blob of the tuna mixture in the middle. You don’t want too much, otherwise your rice ball will get really messy and not hold together. A heaping teaspoon or a level tablespoon max, probably.
Put a little more rice on top of the tuna mixture (this trick helps me get more filling into my rice balls :D ).
Fold the saran wrap up around the top, forming the rice into a ball shape and covering the tuna mixture in the middle. You want to make it into a ball first, and you should hopefully not be able to see any of the tuna.
Now you can form it into whatever shape you want. Do so carefully, though, because you don’t want to smoosh out the tuna! Don’t let it escape! I went for triangles today.
Wrap the nori around the bottom of your rice ball, kind of like a taco shell.
If you end up with a rice ball with a hole or crack like this, pre-nori-ing stage, you have two options: A) either try to patch up the hole, or B) just put that side down and hide it with the nori. :)
Repeat until you have 5 rice balls:
You can eat the ugly ones first. If you want to store them, I’d actually recommend storing them without the nori (wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat). You can then add the nori on right before you eat it, so you get the best crispy crunch of nori with your rice ball. Two of them makes a good lunch for me.