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Onigiri Revisited

It's September and school starts in two days so all of sudden, I have ten months of packed lunches looming ahead of me. I am fortunate that my kid will eat just about anything I make for him so I can have a bit of fun with his lunches, use up bits of leftovers and not get all stressed out about it. If that wasn't the case, he would totally be packing his own lunch by now but because I still enjoy doing it, I will continue to feed him during high school.

I am combing through all of my old posts for inspiration and found  this one which was originally posted on NoReEats, my year long experiment of never repeating a recipe. This recipe was posted in August of 2011 on that blog and I have updated the photos and tweaked the recipe a bit to put it here.

One of The Kid's favourite snacks is something called onigiri and it is a great thing to send in his lunch. I can make it before bedtime and pack it up the next morning. For this batch, I had some leftover curry chicken from our curry chicken udon noodles and used some of that to stuff in them. If you have never tried onigiri, they are just japanese sticky rice balls (the same rice you use to make sushi but you don't season it with the vinegar/sugar mixture). You put in a cute, little mold, fill with a bit of meat or fish or something and the wrap in a strip of nori (the seaweed sheets you use to make sushi). You can use anything to fill them, even tuna salad or some ham and it makes a really easy lunch item to pack for your kids too. I make california roll onigiri on mornings when I am too lazy to make actual california rolls to pack in his lunch. If your kid doesn't like meat or fish, you can just use a bit of vegetable or even nothing at all. Some kids just like a big rice ball without any filling at all.

You can pick up these onigiri molds in any japanese or korean store and if you don't have one close by, you can order them online at a ton of places. This one even comes with a case so you don't have to wrap it in saran wrap. If you have young kids who appreciate fun looking food, you can buy these molds in all sorts of shapes like hello kitty and panda bears (you might not be able to wrap them in nori if you are using fancy shapes though)

my onigiri mold
makes 4 med sized onigiri
1 cup sushi rice
1 cup water
ponch salt
a couple tbls of filling of your choice
furikake to taste - my kid loves it so i use a generous amount but you can just use a light sprinkle
1 sheet nori, cut into strips (the sheets have a light cutting indents so just cut along those lines, about 1/2")
 onigiri molds

I use a rice cooker for my rice. Put the rice in pot and rinse it in cool water four or five times until the water runs pretty clear. Cover with water and let it sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes or up to about 30 minutes to soak. Drain that water and then add a fresh cup of water to the rice in the pot , a pinch of salt and cook in your rice cooker.
While the rice is cooking, get your stuff together.

Cut up your leftover meat or fish or mock crab, tuna salad or whatever you are going to stuff these things with into little pieces. Cut your nori strips and set aside.

When the rice cooker turns off, let it sit for 10 minutes to steam before removing the lid. When that is done, take off the lid, remove the rice and put it a shallow bowl and let it cool until it's just nicely warm. This is when you sprinkle in the furikake (you can skip this too if you or your kids don't like it) over the rice and gently fold in in.

Rinse your mold and the mold lid under warm running water and just shake the excess water off but don't actually dry it. It also helps to keep your hands damp while handling the sticky rice, especially if you choose to mold them by hand, by the way. Pack some rice into the mold so it covers the bottom and is starting to come up the sides. Lightly press a well into it with your thumb and put in a bit of filling - not too much or it will not hold together after. Cover the filling with some more rice so that the mold is loosely filled - not too tightly packed in or when you press the lid down it will ooze out and the filling might seep out.
There is a little flap in the bottom of the mold and you push that in and it pops the onigiri right out. Because it's still warm, the seaweed will stick right to it and hold itself to the rice when you wrap the strip around the bottom. The seaweed forms a kind of a wrapper that makes it easier to eat without it falling apart but if your kid hates nori, leave it off. See? So many options here.

fill part way with rice-make small indent

add a bit of your filling

cover with a little bit more rice to fill mold loosely

push down lid to compact the rice

finish with nori wrapping

That's it. If you are eating it right away, you just serve them as is. You can serve with any sort of dipping sauce or just a bit of soy sauce. The Kid eats them plain or sprinkles even more furikake on them. Just wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge and throw them in your kid's lunch box in the morning (don't forget to add a freezer pack so they stay cold if you are using meat, fish or anything with mayo as a filling)

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