It's over 3 years now since Mark & I left Tokyo, so we've been back in Sydney longer than we lived there. Mostly we've been so busy that the time has flown, but there are still things about our life in Japan that I miss a lot. The trains, the restaurants, the fabric shops (of course), the quirky little boutiques, our apartment and our neighbourhood. Skiing. Amazing service in shops, and packaging. Seasonal changes. And onigiri.
I don't think I ever wrote about onigiri while we lived in Japan, but it was something I ate all the time. Opposite the West Exit from Ebisu Station, near the entrance to the Hibiya-sen, there was a little onigiri shop and I would often stop there to pick up some lunch to take with me to university, or on my way to work. My favourite flavours were umeboshi (pickled plum) and sake (cooked, flaked salmon).
I've written before about Supermarket Roulette, but there was also a dangerous game of Onigiri Roulette, which could be played in conbini. Before I could read any Japanese I'd just pick one and hope for the best, but for every time I got something delicious there was also the risk of eating something foul. I quickly learned the kanji for bean 豆 and would avoid it, because it could be natto. And I also learned the kanji for plum 梅, because umeboshi onigiri were reliably good (and it was an easy kanji to remember).
I've never seen onigiri sold in Sydney. There are lots of those big fat takeaway sushi rolls, but no nice little rice triangles. I have been obsessing over umeboshi onigiri recently, so yesterday Ali and I headed across the bridge to Tokyo Mart for supplies.
I know it's not hard to roll rice balls with your hands, but I cheated and bought a little mould, which made it incredibly easy. I cooked gyudon for dinner last night, and made extra rice for a batch of onigiri. I toasted the nori over the gas flame to give it the extra crunchy texture I remember from Japan, and only wrapped it around the rice at the very last minute so it would stay dry. I had the onigiri for lunch today and they were delicious.
I watched this video, and while it is quite odd having the dog sitting up at the bench during a cooking show, her suggestions for different onigiri fillings and how to roll them are helpful. And this one isn't helpful at all but is funny - it's an ad aimed at competitive bento makers, with all kinds of stamps and moulds that let you make onigiri with faces.
And if you have never eaten onigiri, this clip from かもめ食堂 (one of my very favourite Japanese movies) will make you want to try them. [Warning: best not to watch this if you're hungry]
Update - I just found a Two Thousand article about a place that sells Onigiri in the city. Must check it out!