A simple recipe for onigiri, or Japanese rice balls, with salted plums

TOKYO (AP) — Onigiri is a ball of rice with something inside, similar to how two slices of bread with something in between makes a sandwich. In the same way that just about every American has made and eaten a sandwich, so too have most Japanese eaten onigiri.

A Tokyo correspondent for The Associated Press is sharing her basic onigiri recipe. It uses umeboshi (salted Japanese plums), but what you put inside can be just about anything — fish, meat, veggies, even cheese — as long as it fits and tastes good. Feel free to experiment.

Shape your onigiri into the standard triangular form, or whatever fun image strikes your fancy. Wrap it with nori (dried seaweed). You can use one big strip of nori or several bite-size pieces.

There are no fixed rules. Some people sprinkle their onigiri with sesame seeds. Oboro kombu, or shaved kelp, is another favorite. Or enjoy it plain.

Easy Onigiri, from AP's Yuri Kageyama

Start to finish: 5-7 minutes

Servings: 5 rice balls (enough for five people, or just one big eater)

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup water

1 ½ cup Japanese rice, cooked to fluffiness

Three umeboshi salted Japanese plums (available at Asian food stores; for smaller umeboshi, use one for each rice ball)

Two sheets of dried nori seaweed


Add the salt to the bowl of water. Wet your hands with the salted water, pick up a handful of cooked rice, still hot but cooled enough so your fingers don’t burn. Put umeboshi on top. Pick up another scoop of rice with your other hand, place it on top of the rice and umeboshi. Cup your hands together, squishing gently. Turn a few times in your hands so the rice becomes a slightly triangular ball. Wrap with nori.

Add any desired garnishes, such as sesame seeds or kombu.