knits by sachi

How to make Onigiri rice ball, traditional way

on March 25, 2015

Some people really do great art work with Onigiri rice ball.


Another series of Master Chef has started and I have been enjoy watching the show very much.

What I found interesting is that many contestants cook Japanese. They pronounce Japanese cooking ingredients as Dashi, Yuzu and Tonkatsu sauce with ease. Japanese food is very healthy and I am pleased to know that it is getting popularity in the UK as well.

But most of the dish cooked on the television is restaurant food. Home style cooking is much more simple and easy.

And this is our nation’s favorite: Onigiri

Onigiri, sometimes also called Omusubi is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, katsuobushi, kombu, tarako, or any other salty or sour ingredient as a natural preservative. Because of the popularity of onigiri in Japan, most convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors.

Although so simple, my boys absolutely love them. They grew up with Onigiri.

Here, my older son is having a go at making some at age 12.

I have seen tutorials on internet and many are very unconventional. They still work well and some methods are beginner friendly, but here is the traditional, conventional way of making Onigiri. I still like this method the best.

Steamed short grain sushi rice

water to moist your hands
filling of your choice (tuna mayonnaise, cooked salmon etc)
wrapping seaweed

1. Cook rice following the instruction given on the package.

2. Fluff the rice to separate the grain and let it stand for 10-15 minutes so that the rice will not be too hot to handle.

3. Damp your hands. Damp, not dripping wet!

4. Rub a pinch of salt on one hand.

5. Place some rice on your hand, about the size of an egg.

6. Make a dent in the centre and place the filling of your choice.

7. Encase the filling and give the rice gentle squeeze.
Make sure your hands are nicely damp.

8.Cup your hands and squeeze. Traditionally, we shape the rice into triangle. You do not need to make it rock hard. Gently squeeze and turn, squeeze and turn a few times.

9. Wrap with seaweed sheets. We usually use soy sauce flavoured mini Nori sheets for Onigiri.
And voila.

This is a great tutorial video.

What is crucial is to use short grain rice. Japanese sushi rice is ideal, but pudding rice and Spanish Paella rice also work.

Keep your hands always moist. Rice is very sticky. Keep a bowl of water when you work.

You can enjoy decorating them. Nori sheets is used for easy handling, but you can also roll them in sesame seeds and furikake seasoning (savory sprinkles, often with seaweed, sesame seed, salt, and dried fish)


When I make Onigiri rice balls, feeling the warm cooked rice in my hands, I truly feel how lucky we are to have enough to eat. I never experienced the extreme poverty after the War like my parents’ generation, but I can really appreciate the gift from the Nature.

Onigiri making is fun, therapeutic and satisfying. It can be enjoyed as a Easter holiday project with children.

Maybe I should make an Onigiri bunny.

4 responses to “How to make Onigiri rice ball, traditional way

  1. Ema Jones says:

    The traditional way of cooking is always appreciated 🙂

  2. How lovely, Sachiyo. I love Masterchef and you’re right, there does seem to be an interest in Japanese food. I find your tips for proper home-made variety really inspiring. I just watched ‘Back in Time for Dinner’ about the 1960s – at the start of the decade there was NO foreign food available in Britain at all. The modern family trying it out nearly died of boredom – until spaghetti bolognese arrived mid-decade! Keep the tips coming!

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