In Japanese culture, it is important not to waste any food. And the onigiri (rice ball) is a great example of how this goal is reached. In home-made bento lunch boxes, it is very common to stuff last night’s dinner leftovers in a rice ball. You then pack it in a piece of seaweed and there’s a tasty, popular lunch.
It is definitely not only the home-made version that is eaten often in Japan. You can also easily buy onigiri as a cheap on-the-go snack in any convenience store. You can buy them at 7/11, Family Mart, and Lawson for around 1-1.50 USD per piece.
One of the most popular onigiri versions amongst Japanese as well as foreign onigiri-lovers is the tuna-mayo flavored one. Other good flavors are grilled salmon, pickled plum, and tarako (roe). Some onigiri are made with flavored rice. Nowadays, it is easy to figure out which is which as all packages should have the name of the ingredients on them in English.
It usually looks like a dark green triangle or a round rice ball with all kinds of fillings. If you buy an onigiri in the convenience store, make sure to check the directions on how to unwrap it on the package. As long as you follow the instructions and correct unwrapping order, it is easy to unwrap it.
Lately, there are also o-nigiri with non-traditional fillings such as stir-fried rice with tomato sauce, wrapped in an omelet, or bonito flakes with cheese. While the onigiri offered in convenience stores and supermarkets are good, the best ones are made fresh in one of the many onigiri specialty stores. They usually sell not only onigiri, but also inari sushi, makimono rolls, and karaage fried chicken.
If you are in Japan and you are looking for a quick and tasty snack during your busy day, onigiri is a great option!
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