Onigirazu Bento

Onigirazu are an alternative to the classical ball-shaped onigiri and are gaining more and more popularity these days. The idea isn’t new though and onigirazu have already been introduced in a manga called “Cooking Papa” from 1991. When I first read the word onigirazu I was trying to understand it as a combination of the words “sandwich” and “onigiri”, but that didn’t make any sense at all. So let’s take a look at the word “onigiri”: The ‘o’ is a honorific prefix and “nigiri” is the nominalized form of “nigiru”, which means to clutch or to grip. Nigirazu on the other hand is the negation of nigiru and thus means not to grip. An onigirazu is in a way the opposite of an onigiri: while for the onigiri the rice is formed with your hand or a mold, for the onigirazu it’s just spread out flat on the nori.

The result is pretty similar to an onigiri I think, but it gives you that layered look when you cut it in half which I quite like. Maybe it didn’t remind me much of a sandwich because I used the same ingredients I’d use for a classical rice ball… It’s up to you what to put between the two layers of cooked rice but tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) omelette or spam are very common. Next time I’m definitely trying to get more creative with the fillings.

Making onigirazu is simple: place a regular square of sea weed on a sheet of plastic wrap, spread out a scoop of rice in the middle, add any topping you like, top with a second scoop of rice, fold the corners of the nori to the middle, and then firmly bundle in the plastic wrap. Let is rest for a while so the nori can stick properly to the rice. Once the sea weed has settled onto the rice, you can remove the plastic wrap and cut it in two.

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Because of the flat and square shape, onigirazu are pretty covenient to put into bento boxes. Onigiri however leave you with those tiny gaps in between that you can fill with different things which I like too. As you can see in the picture above, there’s little to no space left between the tightly packed rice sandwiches.

I didn’t go all out with the fillings this time and it’s very basic stuff you’d use for simple onigiri as well such as kimchi, tuna-mayo and pickles. I’m incredibly proud of my rhombus patterned apple though. As small side dish there’s gobou and carrot salad, some edamame and three little fried tofu squares. I also like to add an umeboshi (pickled sour plum) during the summer months because they’re supposed to keep bacteria low.

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Basket bento are so pretty, don’t you think? The fair one is from a fancy mall and the dark one is from a cheap shop, but I like them both very much. Have you ever had onigirazu? And if yes, what’s your favourite filling?


Need to practice my sketching!