Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I Love Rice Balls!
It's easy to make. It is one of the simplest snacks, and also one of the most satisfying. It is comfort food from the part of my childhood spent in Japan. It is onigiri (oh-KNEE-ghee-ree).
Traditionally, the onigiri rice ball, wrapped in a sheet of nori (seaweed), will have a bit of pickled plum as the surprise in the middle, which wasn't my favorite. I like a little dried bonito fish mixed with soy sauce hidden in the center, myself. Mmm! My favorite though, will always be the tuna-mayonnaise version.
How I miss that part about living and working in Japan (as an adult), being able to get my daily fix of tuna-mayo onigiri at the nearest convenience store, and all for about the cost of a dollar. Back then, anyway, about a decade ago. It's not as if I couldn't make it myself, here in the states. How difficult would it be to combine the four ingredients of rice, seaweed, tuna, and mayo?
But I know it wouldn't be the same as the store bought onigiri. The packaging itself is a space age marvel. Most of us who ate home made onigiri as kids take for granted that the seaweed wrapping, crisp and paper-like at first, soon gets soft and pulpy from the moisture of the rice, especially if it's been sitting in a bento lunch box all morning. But not the convenience store onigiri, which can be found in the refrigerated section.
Much like the McD.L.T hamburger that kept the hot beef patty and the chilled tomato slice separate until right before being consumed, convenience store onigiri comes in a single wrapper that keeps the seaweed separate from the rice until it's opened - with no assembly required. It's an engineering miracle, I tell you! A couple of tugs on the plastic pull tabs, and the modern onigiri comes out of the wrapper fully wrapped in its still-dry jacket of nori. Delicious perfection!
I just miss being in Japan. I think the tuna-mayo onigiri symbolizes that happy time for me. I was doing three or four shows a day for a theme park job, and I always had enough free time to worry about being bored. It was one of the times I was the most carefree. I was able to indulge the hedonist in me, and the satisfying salty-fat combo of the tuna-mayo, rice, and seaweed was one of the primary flavors of that indulgence (along with daily and generous doses of chocolate).
I will go back some day. I don't know when, exactly, but when I do, I will eat tuna-mayo rice balls every day that I am there.
Maybe they sell pre-packaged onigiri in Hawaii?