Mitsumi Kawai fondly remembers her mother making yaki onigiri (a grilled rice ball) for her lunch boxes or just as a delicious snack during her childhood.
“Rice balls are really traditional in Japan – it’s like our sandwiches here – you bring it to school, you bring it hiking,” explains Kawai, proprietor of Shika Provisions.
Grilled rice balls in a variety of flavours - teriyaki pulled pork, salmon, aged cheddar or sesame seaweed – are served from Shika’s quaint shack on the marina pier. For those interested in trying their hand at making the Japanese staple food, Shika has provided the recipe.
Cheese grilled rice ball “Yakionigiri” (above photo)
“Yaki” means grilled and “onigiri” means rice ball, which is a staple in Japan, especially for lunch boxes to take to school, work or hiking and to eat as snacks. I grew up with my mom making cheese yakionigiri for snacks and always to accompany summer BBQs.
- cooked short grain white rice (sushi rice)
- diced cheddar cheese
- soy sauce/tamari
1. Once the rice is cooked (preferably in a rice cooker), let it cool enough so that you can hold the rice without burning your hands. It helps to transfer the rice into a bowl so that it can be fanned out and cooled off.
2. Wet your hands (sushi rice is very sticky!) and scoop about half cup of rice onto your palm and place a chunk of cheese in the middle.
3. Make a round shape (or traditionally, a triangle) with your hands by using your palm and fingers. You want two flat sides and rounded edges so that the flat sides can lie flat on the pan. When forming the rice ball, the trick is to be firm enough so the rice sticks and doesn’t fall apart, but not squeeze too hard so that it’s too dense. Rotate the ball in your hand to make the shape and to get the right firmness.
3. Lightly oil and butter a pan or cast iron skillet and put on medium heat.
4. Grill the rice ball on each side so it’s crispy and lightly browned.
5. Brush on soy or tamari and grill until it gets browned and crispy. That’s it! It’s ready to be served to accompany your summer BBQ.