There are some foods in Japan that are so humble that the idea alone is a comfort. Sometimes a person just needs something uncomplicated in the midst of all the craziness we are faced with. Sometimes something as little as a change of plans or a trip on the sidewalk can make you lose sight of what really matters. Suddenly you feel the ground shaking beneath you and what was certain is no longer that. These feelings can happen in a split second and last as little as that or as long as what feels like forever. In times like this, you realize your soul needs a break from the drama. You need something to pull you out of the darkness and into the light. A soul needs patience. A soul needs love. And sometimes, a soul needs grilled sticky rice with soy sauce.
Yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls) is the kind of food that embodies all things simple. The combination of flavors and textures in these little rice gems is perfect. The soft sticky rice and the crisp, sweet outer crust created from the hot soy sauce is the ideal combination of sweet and salty. I have become fond of sprinkling some chopped green onions of chives on top of my yaki onigiri to help add a little freshness. It’s like putting on a warm scarf on a cold day. A new favorite comfort food of mine.
Yaki onigiri does not have to be grilled. I found this out because I wanted to make my own but do not own a grill that can be conveniently used for this purpose. Instead, I placed the onigiri (rice ball) in a baking pan brushed with soy sauce on all sides and put them in the oven at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 10 minutes, flipping half way through.
This has become a new favorite food of mine since moving to Japan and I hope you will give it a try. After all, don’t we all need a little sticky rice and soy sauce for our souls?
Leftover cold sticky rice (you will need at least 1/2 cup, but the number of onigiri you make will depend on how much rice you have on hand)
Light soy sauce for brushing
chopped green onions or chives (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 F or 190 C.
Shape the sticky rice into triangle or circle shaped balls using your hands. They should fit comfortably in the palm of you hand and be tightly packed. If the rice is a little crumbly in spots, do not fear. As long as you are gentle and able to at least maintain the shape through the baking process you will be fine!
Once you have shaped the onigiri, brush all sides with soy sauce. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Enjoy!