Last year I was diligent enough to get my hands on some wild plums and turn them into a California-inspired version of umeboshi, the umami-rich pickled plum condiment from Japan. You can find more about umeboshi and how I made it here, but the most important piece of information in this blog post is that as a result of my making umeboshi, I might be invited on an - I kid you not - Japanese game show. "Who Wants to Come to Japan" is a show that essentially, sends people who are interested in a particular aspect of Japanese culture and have never been to Japan and films their experience. They came across my umeboshi post and reached out to me about being a contestant. Naturally, I jumped at this opportunity. I have never been to Japan and have always wanted to go to explore Japanese foodways and the culture in general. Given it's a Japanese game show, there's definitely a high probability of ridiculousness and, although I may be the brunt of the ridicule, YOLO amiright?
So - to honor this momentous occasion (they're visiting tomorrow!) I decided to finally get around to posting my method for umeboshi onigiri, or rice balls stuffed with umeboshi paste - a delicious way to use up leftover rice! I like to sear my onigiri (technically yaki-onigiri), kind in the same vein as aracini, if you've ever had the Italian fried rice ball appetizer, but pan-seared instead of fried.
This recipe, in combination with other umeboshi dishes including asparagus with wild onion and umami and simply a corn-butter-umeboshi sauté, are so good that I am almost out of my umeboshi supply and sadly, didn't get around to pickling any this year. I guess I'll just have to savor what I have left!
The below recipe makes about 8 small onigiri and can be expanded as needed.
- 2 cups cooked short-grained rice (preferably sticky rice), cooled* - great way to use up your leftovers! Especially delicious is using leftover coconut rice either from a restaurant or made at home (cook rice with half water/half coconut milk).
- 1-2 teaspoons sesame seeds or furikake flakes (Japanese seasoning mix)
- Sea salt
- 4 pickled plums (umeboshi), pitted and diced or smashed into a paste
- Grapeseed oil, for searing
- Soy or tamari sauce, optional (above photo was plain onigiri with umeboshi paste on the side)
- In medium bowl, stir sesame seeds or furikake flakes into sticky rice to combine.
- Wet hands lightly with water then spread a pinch of salt across your palms. Scoop 2 tablespoons of rice mixture from bowl and gently squeeze into ball. Flatten ball then form a well in the center. Add about 1/2 teaspoon umeboshi paste to well, then fold edges of rice over paste to cover.
- Gently squeeze into ball then flatten again. Continue process with more rice and umeboshi until rice is gone.
- Lightly oil a cast iron pan and heat on medium-high. Once oil is hot, add onigiri and sear until lightly brown, about 1-2 minutes on each side.
- Serve with optional soy or tamari sauce (though you probably won't need it!)
*If rice isn't originally sticky and/or not sticky enough, you can make it "stickier" (technically, to be sticky rice, it must be a certain variety of rice that's high in a certain time of pasty starch) by heating pre-cooked rice on medium-low with 1-2 tablespoons water for about 5 minutes or until sticky, stirring occasionally. Here's a recipe for sticky rice, but I just cook rice as I always do then make it stickier after with this method.