Onigiri or musubi, are the Japanese answer to the sandwich. These balls of unseasoned rice have aristocratic beginnings, much like the sandwich, and similarly have evolved into a casual and convenient food that anyone can make at home.
The novel about a scandalous playboy, The Tale of Genji, written by Lady Murasaki-Shikibu in Japan during the 11th century, makes the first mention of the eating of rice formed into balls. Now, nearly a thousand years later, onigiri is a staple of the Japanese diet, though it is only starting to gain traction in the West.
Often wrapped in nori, just like sushi, the difference here is the focus on the rice, rather than the fish. While the making of sushi takes years to master and is not typically prepared at home, onigiri is an everyday food. They are prepared by mothers for lunch boxes, are available in corner stores, and are the perfect sustenance to take along on hikes, picnics, train rides, and road trips.
In this workshop we will examine the different kinds of Japanese rice, and how to wash and cook the rice for optimal taste and texture. We will explore some traditional, and not-so-traditional, filling options like: ume boshi (Japanese salted plum), kombu (umami-packed seaweed), karaage (Japanese fried chicken), tuna with mayo, and some of Abokichi’s homemade okazu (chili & sesame condiment). Participants will be able to try their hand at forming onigiri using a few different techniques, leave with some onigiri to snack on, and the skills to start making their own onigiri at home.
Growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, Jess Mantell was uninterested in the soggy white rice on her dinnerplate as a child. Shortly after completing a degree in design, her hunger for adventure led Jess to spend seven years in Japan, where the rich culinary culture had a strong impact on her palate. Now back in her hometown, Jess is the co-founder of Abokichi, a food and lifestyle company that has been selling onigiri around Toronto since mid-2013.
Every Monday, The Depanneur invites TO’s best culinary talents to lead fun, hands-on workshops.