Asian Heritage Month 2021

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by Yuko Ueno Velaitis

I love talking about food. I love trying foods I am not familiar with, and I love learning about foods and their backgrounds.

I grew up in Japan. Since my mother was working full time, my maternal grandmother who lived with us cooked meals. She often made onigiri, rice balls. Onigiri is a very simple meal—all you have to do is stuff rice with your favorite filling and form it into a triangle, ball or cylinder shape. It can be eaten as a snack, a main meal when you do not have much appetite or want to have a quick meal. Also, onigiri is a staple food in bento boxes.

Sushi is a very famous Japanese food, but to me, onigiri stays closer to my heart. I don’t think I’m the only Japanese who thinks that way. Not only can you easily make them at home, but you can buy onigiri with various fillings at supermarkets, bento shops, and convenience stores in Japan. Onigiri is a popular menu item at izakaya (Japanese taverns) too.

Here is how to make tuna mayo onigiri and tuna soy sauce onigiri:

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1. Cook rice. I usually use “shushi (sushi) rice.” Rinse with water several times and add water (for 1 cup rice add 1 1/3 cup water).
2. Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes.
3. On high heat, start cooking until water boils, then turn the heat to medium low to low until rice is cooked.
4. Open a can of tuna, drain water, and divide it in two small bowls. In one bowl, add a bit of soy sauce: in another, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise, mix.
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5. Fill rice in halfway of a small ball. Add the tuna mayonnaise filling, then cover it with a bit more rice.
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6. Wash hand very well. Place a touch of salt and spread on your palm.
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7. Move the rice from bowl to your palm. Your hands should be just firm enough to press the rice does not fall apart, and shape into triangle shape. If that is too hard, shape it into ball or cylinder shapes.
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8. Wrap with nori.
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9. Repeat 5 to 8 with tuna and soy sauce filling.
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Variation:
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You can fill with cubes of cheese, shape it with triangle form(s), then fry in a buttered skillet. Then brush soy sauce on both sides. It is called yakionigiri.
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Itadakimasu (let’s eat)!!

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