“Onigiri,” also known as “Omusubi,” is the most widespread snack in Japan. This fist-sized rice ball, which, having been industrialized, comes in somewhat disturbing triangular shapes as well, is made from white rice and wrapped in seaweed, called “Nori.” The rice could be flavored with fillings such as salt and black sesame seeds, and/or stuffed in the middle with sour or salty ingredients like salmon, pickled plums (“Umeboshi”), and “Tarako” (cod roe). The stuffing options are endless – pretty much anything goes.
Onigiri/omusubi is distinct from sushi as plain rice is used rather than special sushi rice that contains vinegar, sugar, and salt. This makes it even easier to prepare, and thus is very popular as snacks to take on picnics, to work, and even to ball games. Who would not want to munch on some rice during the 7th inning stretch, right?
To prepare this dish you will need a small bowl, thin plastic wrap, a rice spoon to scoop, a bowl full of white, round rice properly cooked (and cooled off), nori to wrap the rice, fillings of your choice, and a little bit of water and salt to taste. Take the small bowl and line it with the thin plastic wrap. The wrap should be big enough so that rice does not overflow when you make a ball out of it.
Sprinkle some salt, fill the bowl with cooked rice and make a hole in the center with the help of your finger. Add your desired fillings in the hole. Bring the ends of plastic wrap together and twist them tightly so that it looks like a ball. If you succeed in making this a triangle, let me know. Take off the plastic slowly, and wrap the rice ball partially or completely with some nori.
Of course, as is almost anything else in Japan, you can find onigiri/omusubi in 24/7 convenience stores that daily stock up on them and offer a wide selection of filling types. This is an ideal budget snack when traveling in Japan.
Josh Shulman, Author of All-You-Can Japan http://smartjapantravel.wordpress.com