These are a snack food which I learned of while browsing a Japanese market in New York City, looking for a quick easy to go snack. Once I'd realized the ease of basically taking a large one-piece sushi with me which was filled with a new set of fabulous, flavorful ingredients, I was hooked.
Onigiri, which literally means rice balls, are a popular, easy to eat on-the-go snack in Japan. The rice ball has an adorable triangular shape to make eating an onigiri an easier one-handed experience and they're often made with some kind of filling inside, although they are sometimes served plain, often after they've been grilled, which makes them yakionigiri. Popular ones include konbu (a type of seaweed), a delicious, light onigiri that as a bonus is vegetarian; mentaiko (seasoned cod roe)--I became quite fond of this flavor from the Japanese supermarket and I was always disappointed to find them out of stock; umeboshi (pickled plums) which I could never quite get the hang of, the flavor being too strong; sha-ke, grilled salmon, tasty of course; and tuna mayonnaise, my second favorite flavor after the flavored roe. I don't know if this is exactly traditional, but I make mine with sushi rice. And the filling I'll be sharing today is something that isn't quite traditional, it's more a twist on the idea of tuna mayonnaise: a smoky, rich smoked trout in mayo salad with delicate spring onions, which was heavily influenced by a fellow foodie friend's smoked trout mousse (my version uses mustard as opposed to horseradish and Mayonnaise as the creamy element, in the stead of creme fraiche). What gives it its twist is the spicy and acidic flavor of spicy brown mustard. This version of fish/mayonnaise salad is seriously tasty and you will likely find yourself with extra after making your onigiri. Spread it on crackers; use it to make tea sandwiches. It truly is rich and amazing.
I had a special mold to make my onigiri, but I'm told the technique becomes pretty easy with practice, and involves forming the points by cupping your hands and pressing the rice into the ridge formed in your palm. If you find yourself making onigiri as a snack pretty frequently, I'd highly suggest purchasing the mold as you can get a decent one for rather cheap on a site like amazon.
Smoked Trout & Spring Onion Salad in Onigiri
Makes 6 Onigiri*
For the sushi rice (to form into onigiri):
1 1/2 cups sushi rice
2 cups water
1 Tblsp mirin (rice wine)
2 Tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 Teaspoon neutral oil (such as vegetable or peanut)
1 Teaspoon soy sauce
2 pinches sugar
3 - 4 drops toasted sesame oil (optional)
4 sheets nori seaweed, cut into 3" wide strips
Optional garnish ideas: benishoga (julienned ginger pickled in shiso leaves), furikake (a sweet sesame/seaweed/salt dry condiment mix), toasted or black sesame seeds
For the smoked trout salad:
1 4 ounce tin smoked trout in oil, almost entirely drained
2 Teaspoons spicy brown mustard
1 - 2 Tblsp mayonnaise (depending upon taste)
pepper, to taste
4 spring onions, sliced (white parts only)
1. In heavy bottomed saucepan combine rice and water and bring to a boil.
2. When the water is boiling, cover the pan and turn heat down to lowest setting. Set a timer for the rice for 30 minutes.
3. While the rice is cooking use a fork to break up the trout fillets into small flakes. Mix in all other ingredients for salad, combine thoroughly and then cover and set in the refrigerator while the rice finishes cooking.
4. With the exception of the nori sheets, whisk together the rest of the ingredients for the sushi rice in a small bowl, heating the mix in the microwave in 10 second increments until the sugar is dissolved (shouldn't take more than 2 to 3 ten second long increments).
5. When the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, remove from heat, but leave it covered. After 5 minutes fluff it with a rice paddle while slowly drizzling the warmed mixture together (vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, etc.).
6. When the rice has cooled completely, dampen your hands or mold and press half full with rice. Press tight. Fill with smoked trout mixture (about 2 Teasp each). Cover with the same amount of rice, then press together. If you are forming them by hand, now is the time to try your corner making technique.
7. Wrap each onigiri with a strip of nori and sprinkle with condiment of your choice.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!
*With Trout Salad leftover