During my Narita layover, I stopped by a convenience store to pick up some onigiri, which is my favorite Japanese snack ever. It’s essentially a stuffed rice ball wrapped in crispy sheets of seaweed. My favorites are from the 7-11 or Family Mart and contain spicy tuna or tuna with mayo as the filling. You may also find teriyaki beef or plum or whatever, but I love the tuna ones best.

In Hawaii, there is a similar rice ball called musubi and, in classic Hawaiian tradition, it’s stuffed with a seared slice of Spam. Why some call it musubi while others say onigiri is unclear—both words refer to the same thing: a rice ball.

They’re handy snacks for on-the-go. In Japan, I would buy some in the morning and carry them in my bag for a mid-day snack in between sightseeing. Or they’re good for a road trip or day at the pool. Basically, any food that can be eaten neatly with your hands is the ideal on-the-go snack.

After a weekend of hectic home-cooking, you’re probably ready for something simple. Here is an easy recipe for musubi/onigiri. Happy cooking!

Recipe: Musubi or Onigiri, Rice Balls

Notes: You can essentially stuff them with whatever you’d like—just think of this recipe as a guideline to help you reach your maximum rice ball potential. You can form the rice balls by hand, but a musubi mold will make the task easier.

Ingredients

  1. 3 c uncooked sushi rice
  2. 5 sheets nori, halved lengthwise
  3. furikake to taste
  4. For Spam:

  5. 1 (12 oz) can Spam, sliced lengthwise into 10 pieces
  6. For tuna mayo:

  7. 2 (6 oz) cans tuna, drained
  8. 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  9. 1.5 tbsp Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Make rice: Cook rice according to package instructions. Transfer to medium bowl and cool completely. Fold in vsalt to taste.
  2. Cook Spam if using: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, pan-fry Spam until browned and crisp, approx 1m per side. Transfer to shallow dish lined with paper towels.
  3. Prep tuna if using: In a medium bowl, mix together tuna, mayo, and Sriracha.
  4. Form musubi: Lay musubi mold base on center of nori and fill halfway with rice, pressing down with top of mold to pack. Add furikake to taste, then slice of Spam or spoonful of tuna mixture, then more furikake, then more rice until mold is filled, pressing down with top of mold to pack. Remove mold and wrap nori around filling.
  5. Seal in plastic wrap and eat the same day.

Active time: 25m
Total time: 35m + rice cook time
Yields: 10 servings

Christine eating onigiri

Throwback from 2007: me eating onigiri in Tokyo

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4 Discussion to this post

  1. Sachie says:

    Hi Christine, this is my first time to leave a comment but I am super excited about your post. There are many things so small but so tasty in Japan! I was born and raised in Japan and I have been in the US for 13 years. I have been watching a lot of food network shows but I did not know much about the master chef, but my boy friend who is blind told me about you, and he thought I would like your cooking. I am glad he did, and I have been following your blog posts since then for about half a year. Your youtube videos have answered some of my questions that he couldn't answer, like how a blind person applies make-up (you look gorgeous by the way) and I am excited to know that you are a big fan of o-nigiri/o-musubi (adding o in front of a noun just means a little polite in Japanese). I did look them up in Japanese because I was also curious when you said Japanese call the rice balls o-nigiri and/or o-musubi, and the reason is unclear. Musub-u is a verb meaning to tie, or knot. Nigir-u is also a verb meaning to mould, to seize, to clutch. Personally I use o-nigiri but not sure if I use it because I am from Niigata region. When you order "nigiri" at a sushi counter, it can mean nigiri sushi (as opposed to sashimi, rolls are called maki). There are different shapes of o-nigiri, my mom’s and my grandma's were somewhat flattened round, and while I liked my mom's, I started making more of a "standard" shape which is a flat triangle just like your photo shows. I was fortunate enough to visit Hanoi this summer and of course I was excited to try the pho at a local restaurant, but it was not quite what I expected. Maybe it was the restaurant (supposed to be one of the local favorites), or who knows, but I somehow thought I preferred the Pho served here in Indiana. Would you say the pho in Hanoi and Ho chi min city are different? BTW, I ordered your book and received it recently, so I'm looking forward to reading it through and learning about your cooking :),

    • Christine Ha says:

      Hello, and welcome to my blog! Thanks for telling me about yourself and the linguistic lesson behind onigiri vs. omusubi.Yes, Hanoi’s pho is different from that in HCMC and the U.S. Hanoi is where pho originated from, but they tend to be purists in their food, so the pho there is probably not as robust as down south in Saigon or in most places in the U.S. I personally haven’t had Hanoi-style pho before. The best pho I had in Vietnam (and I preface this with the fact that I haven’t explored Vietnam in depth) was at Pho Le in HCMC’s District 3. In the U.S., I find pho in Houston to be the best I’ve had. (Yes, probably a little biased, but I’ve had it in California, too, and still prefer pho from Huston.)Thanks for getting my book, and I hope you enjoy reading it!

  2. James says:

    Hey Christine,
    This sure looks delicious.

  3. Your recipe is very delicious. i've tried it yesterday. Thank you so much for this.

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