Day 22: Onigiri
These little packages of delicious joy have saved me so many times. They’re cheap, tasty and available every block or so. Oh, onigiri, how could I ever live without you?
The idea is really simple. Onigiri is a squashed-up lump of rice with a filling inside, wrapped in seaweed paper called nori. It’s been eaten for centuries in Japan although the exact style and fillings have changed over the years.
Originally it’s thought to have been invented because chopsticks didn’t exist so it was an easy way to eat food. It then seemed to become popular for outdoor events like picnics (for the same reason) but now it’s mainly eaten as a quick snack.
It’s also changed shape from being a ball to normally being triangular (but not always).
The reason I say onigiri is available every block or so is because it’s always stocked at convenience stores and there are more of them than anything else in Japan, it seems.
And it means whenever I’m hungry but trying to rush somewhere, I just pop in and grab one or two. You can normally find them right next to the bento boxes.
Onigiri has very elaborate packaging to stop the seaweed paper getting too moist from the rice. Plastic sheets sit in between the two and when you’re opening the packaging you have to follow a three part instruction process to pull it all away and leave an edible final product.
It took me a couple of tries to get it down to a fine art.
There are lots of possible fillings in the onigiri – like fish, pork, pickles, dried seafood, vegetables and even roe. I seem to have eaten almost every one of them because I can never read the labels and so just grab them based on their colours.
And the best thing about them, other than being delicious and available – is that they are very affordable. The price varies slightly depending on the filling but the average cost is about 120 yen ($1.20).
My favourite filling so far has been wasabi salmon so keep en eye out for that if you’re ever onigiri shopping!