Imagine warm, hand-shaped triangles of rice sprinkled or filled with salted salmon or Japanese pickled vegetables that are then wrapped in roasted nori. These are onigiri or, as they are also called, omusubi. They’re popular, easy-to-make snacks that Sonoko Sakai says are Japanese convenience store darlings and every mom’s answer to bento-style sushi. In her new book, “Rice Craft,” Sakai shares step-by-step instructions for how to make them at home. So cook up some rice and try your own hand at her recipe below for bacon and scrambled egg onigiri.
SONOKO SAKAI’S BACON & SCRAMBLED EGG ONIGIRI
If you’d like, you can also substitute short-grain brown or multigrain rice to make your onigiri.
Yield: Makes 12 onigiri
5 cups Cooked White Rice or Haiga Rice (recipe follows below)
1 stalk of green onion, white parts finely chopped and green parts thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
6 oz (170 g) fried bacon, cut into ⅛-inch (4-mm) slices
2¼ tsps sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the eggs: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the eggs, the pepper and a ¼-teaspoon of salt.
Melt the butter in a nonstick or cast iron frying pan over medium-low heat. Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring with a spatula, until soft peaks of egg begin to form, about 30 seconds.
Sprinkle the chopped white onions over the eggs as they cook. Turning the heat to low, switch from a stirring motion to gently folding the peaks over each other with your spatula. As soon as the eggs begin to set, about 1 minute, remove from heat and transfer to a plate.
Gently fold the scrambled eggs into the cooked rice and combine gently, making sure not to mash the grain. Divide the rice into 12 equal portions.
Prepare your set-up: Set aside a large plate or cutting board to use for your finished onigiri. Prepare two small bowls: fill one with water to wet your hands as you shape the onigiri; add the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt to the second bowl. Place them near your plate or cutting board.
Next, cut a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to line the inside of a small teacup or a bowl. Scoop one portion of the rice into the plastic-lined teacup or bowl.
Start by dipping your fingertips into the first bowl of water and using them to wet your palms. Then, rub a bit of salt from the second bowl between both palms to lightly coat them. This will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands, so repeat as necessary as you shape your onigiri.
Shape the onigiri: Gather the edges of the plastic wrap and lift the rice out of the teacup and into your hands. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap together to form the rice into round or triangular-shaped onigiri.
Unwrap the plastic wrap and peel off the onigiri and gently give it a final press with your slightly wet hands. Don’t press down too hard; the onigiri should feel firm on the outside but remain soft and airy on the inside.
Transfer the finished onigiri to the plate and top with a slice of fried bacon. Repeat these steps with the remaining ingredients.
To serve: Garnish the onigiri with sliced green onions and serve immediately.
BASIC COOKING INSTRUCTIONS FOR JAPANESE WHITE OR HAIGA RICE
To cook basic white rice and haiga rice, Sonoko Sakai says to measure enough water to equal 110 to 120 percent of the volume of uncooked rice. However, always refer to the instructions on the package of rice or the manufacturer’s instructions if using a donabe, electric rice cooker or pressure cooker.
Yield: Makes about 5 cups
1½ cups (300 g) medium- or short-grain white or haiga rice
1¾ cups (420 ml) filtered water
½ tsp sea salt, optional
Wash the rice: In a medium-size bowl, rinse the rice under cool running water, using your hands to gently swish the grains for about 10 seconds. Drain completely and set aside.
Soak the rice: Pour the filtered water into a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the washed rice and salt (if using). Soak the rice for 30 minutes or as long as overnight.
Cook the rice: Bring the pot of rice to a brisk boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Once the water begins to bubble evenly up toward the rim of the pot, cover with a lid and continue cooking the rice for 20 minutes more. Do not lift the lid. Remove the pot from heat and, without lifting the lid, let stand for 15 minutes more.
Finally, uncover the pot and gently fluff the cooked rice with a rice paddle or wooden spoon. Cover the pot once more with the lid and then let stand for 5 minutes longer.
Once cool enough to handle, the rice is ready to make the bacon and scrambled egg onigiri. Use immediately.