Want an Easy Recipe to Get Out of a Sandwich Rut? Try Onigirazu
Rachael Hutchings, author of La Fuji Mama, has eaten her way around the world, having lived in a variety of fun food locations, including Paris, Tokyo, Yokohama, Memphis, and Los Angeles. She is a self-proclaimed Japanese cuisine advocate and loves introducing people to the wonders of homemade tofu and sustainable seafood.
Have you gotten into a sandwich rut when packing your lunchbox? How about shaking things up by packing an onigirazu instead! Onigirazu (pronounced “oh-knee-ghee-rah-zoo”) is kind of like a rice sandwich, and they’re currently all the rage in Japan. Layers of filling sandwiched between layers of rice all wrapped in a sheet of nori (the same type of Japanese seaweed used to roll sushi rolls in). You can add just about whatever fillings you want, which makes them super flexible while giving you an easy alternative to your usual sandwich.
Onigirazu are easy to make. You lay out a sheet of nori (rough side up!), spread a bit of rice in the middle and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt, layer on whatever fillings you want to add, spread on another layer of rice and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt, and wrap it all up like a little present in the nori.
Onigirazu are so quick and easy to make and so versatile that they are perfect for packing in lunches, taking on picnics, or whipping up as an easy afternoon snack. Plus, they pack perfectly into Bentgo boxes, whether it’s a Bentgo Lunch Box,
or a Bentgo Kids Lunch Box.
To get those creative juices flowing around what you can put in your own onigirazu, just think about what you love putting in your sandwiches. As long as it’s savory and not dripping wet, it will work in an onigirazu! Here are a few ideas:
Once you have the basic method down, you won’t need a recipe anymore. You just need to follow this simple formula:
Makes 1 onigirazu
- 1 sheet nori (Japanese seaweed used for rolling sushi)
- 2/3 cup steamed Japanese short grain white rice (often labeled Calrose rice or sushi rice)
- Fine grain sea salt
- Sandwich toppings and condiments
- Lay out a square of plastic wrap that is larger than the sheets of nori on a clean work surface. Put one sheet of the nori, rough side facing up, with one of the corners pointing towards you, on top of the plastic wrap.
- Put 1/3 cup of the steamed rice in the middle of the plastic wrap and spread it out into a square that measures approximately 4 inches by 4 inches and lightly pat it down. (Shape the square so that the corners are pointing towards the sides of the nori, not the corners of the nori.) Sprinkle the rice with a pinch of salt.
- Place your sandwich fillings and condiments on top of the rice. Add another 1/3 cup of the steamed rice to the top of the stack, and sprinkle the rice with another pinch of salt.
- Starting with the left corner of the nori, bring it up and over the rice stack and hold it with your finger. Take the right corner of the nori and fold it so that it overlaps slightly with the first corner. Continue folding with the bottom and top corners until the rice stack is completely wrapped in the nori. Set it aside for 5 minutes.
- At this point the onigirazu are ready to eat or be packed into a bento. If you want them to be more visually appealing, carefully unwrap them and cut them in half with a sharp knife, then wrap each half separately in plastic wrap.
*Recipe Notes: Letting the onigirazu sit for several minutes before cutting into them is essential because this helps the seaweed soften and bind everything together so that your onigirazu doesn’t fall apart when you eat it. You can also pack the cut halves without wrapping them in plastic wrap, but I find that plastic wrap protects the halves from drying out and from things like kids dropping their lunchbox, etc.