The season of fresh rice harvests has reached us once again this year.
There are many ways to prepare and enjoy rice, but I would wager that the simplest way to partake in the deliciousness of rice is Onigiri. Onigiri has a long history, being traced back to 2,000 years ago in the Yayoi Period in Rokusei, Ishikawa (currently Nakanoto Town). By the way, there is a special Onigiri Day in Rokusei on June 18th of every year: as “roku” is Japanese for “6” (the 6th month of the year being June) and the 18th is a day to celebrate eating rice. As simple as Onigiri is, it also gives room for wide variations on the base recipe, including what you choose to stuff inside, how you fold it with seaweed, the type of rice you use -- everything can be altered to your preference. The most popular ingredients for the inside are grilled salmon, dried plum, and spicy mentaiko (pollock roe). In recent years, tuna mayonnaise and soft-boiled egg are also popular fillings.
The trick to creating delicious Onigiri is to not compact it too tightly. By allowing the rice to maintain its fluffy texture, it mimics the pleasant mouthfeel of sushi and becomes increasingly delicious. There is also a newly-created dish called “Onigirazu” (meaning, without being rolled; whereas Onigiri means, rolled) that features rice that is lightly hardened.
My favorite type of Onigiri is Okaka. Okaka Onigiri is filled with bonito fish flakes seasoned with soy sauce rolled inside rice wrapped with dried seaweed -- nothing could be more delicious. Even enjoying it cold and refrigerated is pleasant; serving it with deeply-brewed green tea takes the flavor to an entirely different level. The savory flavor provided by the dried seaweed and the tea blends with the depth of flavor of the soy sauce and bonito flakes to create an incredibly intoxicating aroma. If you want to put some miso and soy sauce on the outside, you can enjoy grilled Onigiri, too. Our college has been creating dishes with rice for our research themed around delicious ingredients. We harvested rice on September 9th, and this year our harvest was nearly 200 kilograms worth. During our college festival on October 6th and 7th, we will use this harvested rice to make homemade Onigiri for sale. One interesting dish you can enjoy is Onigiri made with pickled plums and miso, created by one of our students. Please come and visit our festival to enjoy all of the dishes using our freshly harvested rice!
Source: Tokyo College of Sushi and Washoku: The College Headmaster’s One-Dish Course Series.
Photo source: Tokyo College of Sushi and Washoku: The College Headmaster’s One-Dish Course Series.