Eating In: Salmon Onigiri

It being the New Year and all, I decided that I would try to have a bit more foresight in my food prep and set out to make some things that would not only provide for weeknight dinners, but also lend themselves to work lunches and snacks and the like (while still falling vaguely into the “healthy” category).

Salmon Onigiri

One such snack (or potential light lunch) I spotted on the internets (specifically, The Kitchn) that immediately caught my eye due to my lifelong sushi addiction was a simple recipe for salmon onigiri. So, when I went out for my haul of make-ahead meal groceries, I picked up some fancy Japanese sushi rice and went to town. Which in this case means I washed it a bunch.

Washing Rice

Then, while it cooked, I took some smoked salmon and cooked it (very briefly) on a cast iron skillet, then shredded it.

This was added to the warm, cooked sushi rice along with a bit of salt and some sesame seeds. I think I might have thrown in a touch of rice vinegar and sugar for good measure.

Mixing Salmon & Rice

I then squashed this mixture into somewhat fragile balls, moistening my hands frequently as instructed and still making a total mess. Oops.

Forming Rice Balls

But once wrapped in their little seaweed jackets, they looked pretty pro! I wrapped them individually in Saran wrap and stuck them in the fridge (after eating a test case, of course) to bring to work with soy sauce packets for snacking.

Salmon Onigiri

The verdict? These were definitely better fresher – although they could be warmed in the microwave, the rice dried out after a time and the balls held together less well, making for a less pleasing eating experience. Still, they were an excellent alternative to the usual 4pm bag of chips, and I got to be impressed with myself while eating them! So overall, a win.

Salmon Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
Slightly adapted from The Kitchn

I actually think I might have preferred these with the salmon uncooked, since I think they need a tang and that might have given it to them (and whether it was my sugar and rice doctoring affecting the texture or something else, they also needed a touch more stickiness). Try to eat them within a few days of making them. 

Yield: 4-6 Rice Balls

4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
3 cups cooked short-grain rice, warm [I used these instructions and the rice came out pretty well]
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt or less, if needed
Rice vinegar, to taste
Sugar, to taste
1-2 sheets toasted nori, cut in 4-6 strips

Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Lay the salmon slices in the pan and cook until opaque and lightly browned, 15 to 30 seconds per side. Flake fish with a fork and mix with the rice and sesame seeds, as well as rice vinegar and sugar to taste. Taste the mixture and add salt if needed.

Place a bowl of water nearby and use it moisten your hands frequently while forming the onigiri, so the rice doesn’t stick to them. Place about a 1/2 cup (or slightly more) of the rice mixture in your hands and squeeze together firmly. Rotate and squeeze until it forms a circular cake that holds together securely. Wrap a strip of nori around the middle. Repeat with remaining rice mixture.

Serve immediately or wrap in plastic wrap to eat later. Most people recommend not refrigerating onigiri because it ruins the texture of the rice, but a 30-second warming in the microwave seems to revive a refrigerated onigiri just fine.

Salmon Onigiri


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