miso yaki onigiri flavored with asatsuki
sprinkled with furikake of blended seaweeds & sesame seeds
miso yaki onigiri stuffed with wasabi tuna
sprinkled with furikake of red pepper flake, sesame seed,
shaved bonito, nori, powdered plum
I substituted this popular portable Japanese snack dating back over a thousand years for a rice side-dish at a recent dinner party. The vegan style is flavored with asatsuki, spicy garlicky Japanese chive. The other style is the stuffed with tuna mixed with wasabi mayonnaise. These onigiri, Japanese rice balls, have been crisped on the outside, dressed with caramelized red miso paste, and dusted with flavorful furikake, a dry mixed-flavor condiment. The interior rice remains soft, warm and almost creamy while the exterior has a delightful contrasting savory crust. Two per guest is the perfect portion size, serve either one of each style per person, or two of the mixed-rice asatsuki for vegetarian guests.
miso yaki onigiri recipe
Premium short-grain white rice is cooked to perfection, then while still hot, it is made into onigiri. For the mixed-rice vegan version add finely chopped asatsuki.
I use the non-traditional method to make these triangular onigiri by pressing the rice into a plastic mold. Traditionally the rice is shaped by hand. The triangle is the most common, but spherical, cylindrical, cube, even animal shapes are popular too.
Mix wasabi powder with mayonnaise then using a fork, blend it with canned tuna. I like Gourmet Coastal Albacore Tuna from Bristol Farms. It uses sashimi grade troll caught albacore that is bled and blast frozen at sea immediately upon catch. The loins are filleted and packed directly into the can and cooked once in its own juices. It’s dolphin and turtle safe too.
I dab a tiny bit of peanut oil on the inside of the mold to keep the rice from sticking. And since the rice truly is sticky – wetting one’s hands before handling it is also helpful. Fill the mold with rice, taking care not to over-fill. Use the top to press down on the rice then un-mold the rice into the hot pan.
For the stuffed version, fill the mold halfway with rice. Make a slight indentation in the center of the rice using your thumb. Place about a 2 teaspoon portion of tuna in the middle and cover with more rice. Use the lid to compact the rice into its perfect triangular shape.
Yaki onigiri is typically cooked over a flame on a wire grate. If that method is not available, cooking it in a non-stick pan with a small amount of peanut oil works very well too. Heat the pan over medium heat, add the oil, then onigiri. Cook each side until the rice gets a bit crispy.
Brush each side with soy sauce and continue to cook until both sides get a nice crust.
Blend 2 T. akamiso (red miso) with 3 T. water and 1 t. super-fine sugar to form a paste. Spoon the miso paste on one side of the onigiri. Place the oven-proof pan under the broiler and cook until the paste is bubbling and starts to caramelize. This sweet salty crust with rich umami flavors adds another dimension to the onigiri.
Sprinkle the warm onigiri with furikake. The chive version gets a seaweed-centric vegetarian sprinkling. The tuna’s furikake includes spicy red pepper and dried bonito flakes which accent the filling.
The rice is compacted just enough to make it stick together. There is still room between the grains so the onigiri is not too heavy or dense.
The wasabi tuna made a terrific filling. Guests did not expect to taste creamy tuna inside the rice, let alone the kick that came from the wasabi.