"Rice Craft," author Sonoko Sakai said it best. "Sushi is made by a chef; onigiri is made by moms." Onigiri is a ball of soft and glutinous rice molded over a piquant inside. The traditional Japanese soul food leaves a generous room for flavorful explosions. Not only do the pillowy balls taste good, but they also look fashionable. Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo, writes, "Next comes a layer of cellophane, followed by a layer of nori and another layer of cellophane. The nori is preserved in a transparent shell for the same reason Han Solo was encased in carbonite: to ensure that he would remain crispy until just before eating. (At least, I assume that's what Jabba the Hutt had in mind.)."
Whether you call them onigiri, nigirimeshi, omusubi, musubi, or omusubi, the mucilaginous rice balls are comfort food that reminds many of home. Not surprisingly, onigiri has been a staple throughout the history of Japanese culture. Although many theorize that they trace back to the Yayoi Period, the modern interpretation of onigiri has been proven to date back to the Heian Period. Kana wasn't the only achievement during the Heian Period. Onigiri was a beneficial ration to the Japanese people, used mainly as a "bento," a pre-packed meal. They were initially made with sticky rice, but that changed during the Kamakura Period. After that, onigiri became even more common among the people.
Yosuke Miura, the third-generation owner of the onigiri shop, Asakusa Yadoroku, says, "You cannot go wrong with rice balls. They make people feel comfortable, and that is why people frequently eat them. The way I cook rice and how much salt I add changes from day to day. People can enjoy these little changes as well, but rice balls always give a sense of comfort and always tasty. That is what makes them so great." The delicious onigiri is beloved by all. They have the potential to be a worldwide phenomenon, as most people can eat them. Be sure to visit an onigiri shop near you or try to make one soon!
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