Aren't they adorable?
There's something about malleable rice that brings out the child in me.
A few years ago, when I was in high school, I was very much into animé. It was pretty common to see my friends, twin sister and I carrying around bento boxes filled with lunch and share it in the Art classroom. One particular friend, Puki, always packed her lunch with the latest and cutest gadgets. Mind you, this was before bento making exploded on the Internet, or else, you would've seen her work.
The best part of her bento were the assorted shapes she made with the rice. Every once in a while, my friend and twin sister visit me at my apartment to hang out for the weekend and we always end up making onigiri. I'm usually in charge of the filling while she makes the rice.
It took some experimenting and some reading (see Simply Sushi by Steven Pillet), but I finally got the recipe right.
2 cups short grain white rice
2 cups + generous 1/4 cup of water (0.55 L)
1 generous tbsp of coriander (for more authenticity, use 3 cm of kombu)
1/5 cup (50 ml) of vinegar
1/5 cup (50 ml) of cooking wine
2 tbsp of sugar (30 g)
1/2 tbsp + 1/4 tbsp of salt (10 g)
Start by washing the rice by massaging it with your hand gently. This will release all the impurities such as bran into the water, turning it milky white. Drain completely and repeat until the water is almost clear and drain once more.
Rice Cooker version (I used this one in this recipe)
Add the rice, water and seasoning into the rice cooker and switch on. The cooker will do the rest.
Add the rice, water and seasoning into a pot. Cover and bring the water to a boil in medium to high heat. Reduce to medium heat after 1 minute. Once the rice is visible over the water, reduce to low heat. Once the water has evaporated, turn up to high heat for 10 seconds and turn off. Leave the rice for an additional 15 minutes to finish cooking by steaming. If using kombu, please remove before proceeding.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the vinegar dressing. Start by mixing the wine and vinegar thoroughly, then add the sugar and salt. Turn the heat to low to dissolve the crystals completely.
Once the rice is done (it should be sticky, but relatively odorless), transfer to a wide, shallow container. Add the prepared vinegar, making sure to spread it evenly with a spatula.
The filling is up to you! I've made onigiri with ground beef and chicken (I like my meat, thank you very much) but they can be filled with vegetables and fish if you want.
There are plenty of online shops that sell rice moulds at affordable prices and assorted shapes.
If you don't have any (like me), just use a plastic wrap to mould the rice into the shape you want.