• ビーガンおにぎり •
These whimsical Japanese rice triangles can be flavored with a multitude of ingredients and make a great packed lunch or bring-along for a springtime picnic. I’ve made six versions of Vegan Onigiri to inspire you to create your own.
If you read my last post about my trip to Japan, you’ll remember me mentioning these little rice balls and how they can found in every convenience store. Indeed, they are such a popular and inexpensive snack that most stores stock numerous flavors and some shops even need to be replenished with fresh ones every few hours. I especially love the packaging they come in; it’s ingeniously designed to keep the nori from touching the moist rice until ready to eat, thus ensuring that the nori stays crisp.
Onigiri can be stuffed or left unstuffed. Popular vegan varieties include pickled umeboshi plum, mustard greens, ginger, and kelp. For these six onigiri, I decided to create three with Japanese flavors and three others with a Middle Eastern twist.
The ones I made were:
• Plain rice onigiri coated with homemade furikake •
• Matcha, steamed edamame beans, and sea salt •
• Brown rice stuffed with braised sesame bok choy •
• Carrot, mint, and preserved lemon •
• Sumac and pine nut rice stuffed with spiced caramelized onions •
• Zaatar-dusted and stuffed with black olives and lemon zest •
You can use leftover rice, but I prefer fresh. Although, if you have other leftover things like sautéed greens or seared tofu, definitely use them up as stuffing for onigiri. These are great for packed lunches because they are so self contained. I think that a bento box with a couple onigiri triangles, a salad, and some Japanese-style pickles would make an superb lunch. Don’t forget to tuck in a package of roasted nori to wrap the onigiri with while eating. I think the best way to enjoy onigiri, however, is to pack up a whole bunch along with a pot of green tea and have a Japanese-style springtime picnic under cherry blossoms!
- 1 recipe Basic White or Brown Rice, omit the oil and use short or medium-grain rice only
- Stuffings and coatings to suit your taste. You can use greens, beans, seeds, tofu, pickles, olives, and steamed veggies. See my versions listed below.
- The general rules for making onigiri are to use a shorter grain rice, keep a small bowl of water for dipping your hands to prevent the rice from sticking, and use a sheet of plastic wrap to help you shape and form them.
- For all of the versions below, follow this basic technique: Scoop ¾ cup of rice onto the center of a piece of plastic wrap. If you aren't using any stuffing, sprinkle on whatever toppings you are using and roll around the the rice ball to coat. Gather the ends of the plastic wrap and form the rice into a ball by pressing together very firmly. You can then form them into triangles by pressing against the counter and adjusting to the desired shape. If you are using a stuffing, after you scoop the ¾ cup of rice onto the plastic wrap, dip your hands into water and press an indent into the center of the rice. Spoon 1 - 1½ Tablespoons of filling into the indentation, then gather the plastic wrap and press it tightly into a ball as described above.
- Sprinkle an already formed rice ball with 2 teaspoons furikake. Make a batch of your own by following this recipe: 4 Tablespoons roasted sesame seeds, 2 Tablespoons crushed nori, 1 Tablespoon dulse seaweed, 1 Tablespoon hemp seeds, ¾ teaspoon sugar, and a scant ½ teaspoon each of sea salt, lemon zest, and fine red pepper. Shake them together in a jar. Makes a little over ½ cup of furikake.
- Sauté 2½ cups thinly sliced bok choy in a teaspoon of oil for a minute. Add in 2½ teaspoons soy sauce, 3 Tablespoons vegan dashi stock or water, ¼ teaspoon sugar, and ¼ teaspoon sesame oil and braise the bok choy over medium heat for 2-3 minutes and then remove from heat and cool.
- Make an indentation in the rice and spoon in 1 heaping Tablespoon of bok choy before forming into a ball. Use spinach, kale, swiss chard, or mustard greens instead of the bok choy.
- Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon matcha, 2 Tablespoons steamed edamame, and a pinch of salt onto each mound of rice and use your fingers to incorporate before forming.
- Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons shredded carrot, 1 Tablespoon mint leaves, and a scant 1 Tablespoon chopped preserved lemon onto each rice mound and use your fingers to incorporate before forming.
- Chop and caramelize an onion in a few Tablespoons olive oil until browned and sweet. Remove from heat and add ½ teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and set it aside to cool.
- Sprinkle ½ teaspoon sumac and 1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts into your mound of rice and incorporate, then stuff with 1 Tablespoon caramelized onions.
- Stuff a mound of rice with 1 heaping Tablespoon of chopped black and green olives and a pinch of lemon zest. Form the onigiri then dust it liberally in zaatar.
-Don't use a long grain rice for these. There isn't enough starchiness to stick them together and they will fall apart instantly. If you find that your short or medium-grain rice is not sticky enough after cooking, use a rubber spatula to press and fold it about 10 times and you'll notice it becoming more workable.
-If you aren't using inherently salty toppings or fillings, be sure to sprinkle your finished onigiri with a little extra salt.
For more info about Onigiri and other goodies, check out my post about my trip to Japan!