Onigiri is honestly one of my favorite snacks. I often remember picking them every time I had visited a convenience store in Japan. The best part about it was the amount of option, you can choose from. From traditional variations like the umeboshi onigiri to tuna onigiri, there is an onigiri for everybody. But one of my go-to has to be the spicy tuna onigiri. Something about a little kick just tickles my taste buds and this recipe has just that.
Onigiri is a Japanese dish that is a rice ball with a kind of filling wrapped in seaweed. The type of filling can be wildly diverse, but there are common fillings that are nearly found at every convenience store in Japan. Common fillings include umeboshi (pickled plum), bonito flakes, seasoned kelp, salted salmon, and tuna mayo. These are some of the ones I remember, there are more! There are even further variations to how it is even prepared. You can even coat the rice with furikake or even crushed chips. It adds so much more to an already delicious dish!
In every type of onigiri, the rice is the most important part. The type of rice used in onigiri is typically either short-grained or medium-grained rice due to its sticky characteristic and chewy texture. This will ensure the onigiri will stay in shape from its creation to when it is consumed. In this recipe, I went with medium-grained rice which was vastly more available than short-grained rice.
The Onigiri Rice
It is pretty common to find that the rice in onigiri is not seasoned at all. It is quite how it is traditionally practiced in Japan. If anything, seasoning may actually affect how sticky the rice can be which can affect the overall structure of the onigiri. In this recipe, I find it tasty to incorporate the sweet and sour flavor from sushi rice to contrast the spicy tuna filling. Again, it is completely by choice. If you do plan to season the rice, let it rest for 5-10 minutes to make it sticky enough.
Spicy tuna onigiri is filled tuna! Tuna doesn’t have to be fresh, you can actually get it from a can. I found it best to buy canned tuna that doesn’t have too much seasoning as you will season it yourself! In everyone’s case, adjust the seasoning to your preference. For the tuna, I seasoned it with sriracha sauce, kewpie mayo, soy sauce, and gochujang. Like all recipe, feel free to add any other seasoning to the filling. There is no exact science to how you would like to enjoy this simple snack.
The best way to assemble spicy tuna onigiri is with a mold. An onigiri mold can be found online or from an Asian/Japanese store. Of course, you can still make onigiri without it, but you will have to use saran wrap and your hands to shape it into the iconic triangular shape. When you are first adding the rice, make sure there is a pit where the spicy tuna filling will accommodate. I find that having a pit allows enough of the filling to take up space without squeezing out through the rice. With a nori sheet, wrap it around the onigiri.
After you have made your onigiri, you can top it off with furikake or if you wanna try something new, you can also try crushed chips. My favorite experiment would have to be cream brulee onigiri which is made by adding kewpie mayo as the binder. Then covering it with brown sugar and torching it. Even though it is not a very traditional way of making onigiri, it sure taste so delicious.
Spicy Tuna Onigiri
- 12 oz canned tuna drained
- 2 tbsp kewpie mayo
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp gochujang
- 3 cups short or medium grain rice (sea note)
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Kewpie Mayo
- Brown Sugar
- Start by preparing a bowl of the canned tuna, kewpie mayo, sriracha, soy sauce and gochujang. Feel free to add more gochujang if you want more of kick!
- In a separate bowl, make the sushi rice. Mix in the rice, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Feel free to add more of each to your liking. (See note)
- With an onigiri shape mold or with your hands, insert the spicy tuna mix into the rice. Feel free to add how much of the filling as you would like.
- For the toppings, furikake is a popular choice. I also experimented with cream brulee by adding kewpie mayo as the bind with brown sugar. I toasted it with a blowtorch. Enjoy!
|Onigiri is traditionally not prepared with sushi rice, but I do like the sweet and sour flavor undertone to the spicy tuna filling. Feel free to omit step 2 and just go with short-grain or medium-grain rice. If it is hard to find this type of rice, feel free to replace it with the kind of rice that is available to you.