Super Simple Sesame Onigiri

January 7, 2018

Traveling to a new place is something to be excited for, and in my humble opinion, the snacks that you eat along the way to wherever you’re going ought to be just as anticipated. 

Because it’s the New Year (and because we’re leaving for a nice little trip to Mexico in the morning,) I’ve spent most of the week whittling down the refrigerator and pantry post-holiday, in effort to organize myself for this next trip around the sun with a clean slate. We’ve been whipping up all sorts of little delicious dishes that will likely end up in the repertoire for whenever I’m not just purging; a sweet little oatmeal with poached pears, big bowls of miso-noodle soup w/all the random veggies, black bean + bacon tacos w/this incredible avocado dressing, a Mediterranean-inspired chopped salad with crispy spiced chickpeas and tahini caesar dressing. But these super-sesame onigiris I smooshed together as on-the-go flight snacks were the thing I was most excited about, and they were certainly the most fun to make. 

I’m sure I don’t have to get preachy on the merits of carrying your own travel snacks; you’re bound to have healthier options, save yourself some coin, and ensure that no food goes to waste while you’re out seeing the world. In times past, this popcorn, as well as this, this and these have all made it into my carry-on. I’m particularly excited about these because they’re so portable – wrapped up easily and neatly in sheets of nori, then wrapped in Bee’s Wrap or plastic, there’s very little waste or mess. And, they don’t take long to make. 

I got the inspiration from the incredible Heidi Swanson who uses leftover rice to make her onigiri (smart!)…but I really like these with fresh rice. It’s easier to shape and handle, I think. Heidi also bonds together the rice with cooked beans, while I prefer more veg and a few splashes of flavor agents and this really yummy tahini dressing that I encourage you to whip up in batches and keep for salads later in the week (or, in my case, when I get home from Mexico!) If you don’t have the time to mix up the tahini dressing, I’d suggest adding straight tahini with maybe a tablespoon of miso and a drizzle of olive oil.

A few notes on prep here: once the rice is steamed, smoosh it together in a bowl with your flavor agents and veggies. It’s important that you do this while the rice is warm because the steam will help the rice to bond together. To shape the onigiri, you could use your hands dipped in cold, salted water, an onigiri mold, or a half-cup measure lined with plastic wrap (like I used.) When it comes to wrapping with nori, those hands dipped in cold, salted water are your best tool. Use a bit of the water to mold the nori sushi paper around the rice, being careful not to squish the onigiri apart. The paper will just melt into itself. Let them dry for a minute, then wrap and enjoy. 

Super Simple Sesame Onigiri
For the onigiri
  1. 2 cups freshly cooked sushi or brown rice
  2. 2-3 tablespoons each Bragg's Liquid Aminos and rice vinegar (to taste)
  3. 1/4 cup tahini dressing (see below)
  4. 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  5. small handful of chopped arugula or spinach
  6. 3 chopped scallions
for the tahini dressing
  1. 1/4 cup tahini
  2. 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 to 1 1/2 lemons)
  3. 1 tablespoon honey
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  6. 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  7. 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  8. 2 tablespoons water
  9. Freshly ground black pepper
For the filling
  1. 1/2 avocado, peeled
  2. fine grain sea salt
  3. strips of sushi nori
  1. In a medium bowl, gently toss the rice, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, rice vinegar, tahini dressing, sesame seeds, and chopped greens and herbs. Press the mixture together to build a bit of starch and stick in the rice, then set aside.
  2. Smash the avocado with a bit of salt, you'll put a bit of this in the middle of each onigiri.
  3. Shape the rice in 1/2 cup portions, you'll end up with 4 - 5 onigiri. You can use wet hands, an onigiri press, or a plastic wrap-lined cup. You'll press a layer of rice to form the bottom, use your finger to make a bit of an indent, add a bit of avocado, and then cover the avocado with another layer of rice. Press enough that the onigiri holds together. Repeat until all the rice is used.
  4. Next, wrap each onigiri with a strip of nori. If I'm going to take these to-go, I'll wrap the entire onigiri, you can even wrap the rice burrito style if that's easier. But, If we're going to eat them immediately, I might go for a thinner strip of nori. Dab a bit of water on the seaweed where you want it to seal, then press and smoosh the nori around the rice. Pack and eat!

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