Sesame rice balls (ongiri)

13 Jun

Ongiri for dinner

Ongiri for lunch

Leftover sushi bits are hard things to deal with, freshness being kinda the critical element of sushi and all Japanese wonders. After a sushi dinner party, Man Woman had an abundance of cooked rice and would-be nori roll fillings still hanging about and decided, when all other options fall flat, make balls.

This is inspired by the rice balls from the macrobiotic restaurant in Sydney Iku, which nourished Woman during many long and impoverishing journeys through Glebe markets. As a leftover recipe we used what we had leftover – a bit of carrot, some errant aspargus spears, etcetera. Use whatever you have to hand, but I’d try to keep the rice:non-rice ratio faily similar to this, because too much non-mushable veg (sweet potato and the like would be an exception) would stop this from binding.

I also have on good authority that kneading of this mix is crucial to ensure it holds.

Rice balls (ongiri). Makes 8 – 10 – serves 2 to 4 people

  • 1 C sushi rice uncooked
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/3 C tofu (ideally a flavoured one – smoked or some such)
  • 1/4 C asparagus
  • 1/3 C carrot
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp mirin (sweet cooking wine – optional)
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 1.25 C water – for cooking the rice
  • Sesame seeds – for rolling

Chop vegetables up quite small (see below pic as a guide) and mix with cooked rice. Add ginger, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil and mirin – if using. If you, perchance, have any left over picked ginger knocking about in the fridge, chuck that in promptly.

With wet hands, mix the rice and veg, pressing down as though kneading dough.

Keep a bowl of water next to you and pour out about half a cup of sesame seeds onto a plate.

Make balls by scooping a palmful of rice mix into your wet hands (the repetition of wet hands is a purposeful emphasis – without repeatedly dipping your hands into water or the like, the sushi rice will stick to you, not itself and you will never, ever create rice balls). Firmly shape into a ball for about a minute, if not a bit longer. Roll in sesame seeds, coating entirely, and set aside.

I put my rice balls in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking, but it’s not necessary.

Ongiri in process

Fry or bake?

You can shallow fry these in about 1cm of vegetable oil, turning as the seeds in the oil golden. This creates a nice chewy crust which contrasts nicely with the soft rice inside – it is, however, frying and thus bad for you and doesn’t have that  clean feeling of not frying.

For baking, pre-heat the oven to 190C. Brush the balls lightly in sesame or veggie oil. Bake for about half an hour or until the crust gets coloured – these won’t get as dark as the fried balls, but the crust does get that chewy texture. You don’t have the oil weighing you down after the meal as the fried ones do and the chance of burning yourself with an errant, angry sesame seed flying out of a hot pan of oil are markedly lessened. Bake, I reckon.

Either way serve with salad. I also made a quick lemon, black bean and ginger sauce to go with it (just mix these ingredients and adjust to taste).

Estimated cost: £2.50

Musical accompaniment: Lia Ices

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One Response to “Sesame rice balls (ongiri)”

  1. Onigiri recipe April 6, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    I love onigiri and just stumbled upon this Onigiri recipe. This one looks delicious and I would definitely try making this later. Thanks a lot for sharing this recipe!

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