Type 5: The visible-inside onigiri
This type of onigiri shows off the inside and is only wrapped around the sides, rather than all around the ball. This one is rather more difficult to make than other types.
Type 6: Onigiri with alternate wrappings
Nori is the most common onigiri wrapping, but there are other wrappings. Here is one wrapped in salted green shiso leaves.
Other wrappings include nozawana zuke (pickled green leaves) and hakusai zuke (pickled nappa cabbage), thin dried kombu seaweed called tororo, and so on. I’ve even seen salted lettuce leaves and kimchee used as wrappers. Onigiri wrapped with alternate wrappers can be filled or unfilled, depending on how salty the wrapping is.
Type 7: Yaki Onigiri - grilled onigiri
Onigiri that is grilled on a wire grill until crispy, then brushed with soy sauce or miso. Yaki onigiri are best served hot, though they can be chewy yet tasty bento additions. Yaki onigiri usually do not have fillings, though some people like to put a little umeboshi or okaka inside (see the Filling section below).
What goes inside the onigiri
In response to my previous onigiri posts on Just Hungry, the question asked the most is about fillings. I have already written about this before, but it bears repeating here. Basically, anything that fits with rice and is not too greasy or watery can be used as filling. So, if the traditional fillings don’t appeal to you, try things that you like and see how they taste!
If you are a traditionalist as I tend to be, here are the most popular fillings.
From the top, clockwise:
Shiozake or shiojake, salted salmon which is grilled and flaked. It’s easy to make your own.
Umeboshi (salty pickled plum). A little of this goes a long way. It also has some antibacterial qualities, so it’s the ideal filling for onigiri that might be travelling at room temperature for some time. The photo shows regular soft umeboshi Not shown here is the crunchy and smooth skinned kariume.
Tarako, salty cod roe that is cooked and cut into small chunks. (While tarako is closely related to mentaiko, spicy cod roe, you don’t see mentaiko used as an onigiri filling that often for some reason, but it’s equally good as an onigiri filling.)
Okaka is bonito flakes or katsuobushi (the kind used for making dashi stock) mixed until moistened with soy sauce. (Confusingly it’s also just called katsuobushi or katsubushi.) You must take care not to mix in too much soy sauce, or it will seep through the rice and cause the onigiri to crumble.
Umekaka, bonito flakes mixed with umeboshi.
Kombu no tsukudani or shio kombu - kombu seaweed that’s been cooked in a soy sauce based sauce until tender and salty. Other types of tsukudani can be used too. How to make your own kombu no tsukudani.
Rather less traditional but widely popular:
Tempura - shrimp tempura (shrimp fried in a light batter) used either as a filling or on the outside. This type of onigiri is called tenmusu. It’s a regional speciality of the city of Nagoya.
Canned flaked tuna mixed with mayonnaise - the tuna is almost always oil-packed. This filling doesn’t keep that well - eat within a few hours.
A piece of chicken karaage (fried chicken).
Various kinds of chopped up pickles
If you use molds you can make other shapes too, such as these above. Why not a bunny or cat onigiri? Personally I don’t use molds much since I can make them by hand a lot faster, but they can be fun if you have the time, or are making them for a party or something like that. (I actually used egg molds to make the ones in the photo.) Faces can be made with cut nori or anything you can imagine. It should all be edible though!