Adventuring requires snacks and adventuring through Japan meant many exotic flavour filled snacks. One of our favourites were onigiri; little triangular parcels of rice which sometimes come spiced, contain a hidden morsel or are sold plain with a simple seaweed strip. These became the perfect pocket snack to fill out a lunch of miso soup or eaten as a mid-afternoon bite to get us through until dinner time.
Snacking during cherry blossom season however brings with it a pink menu of sakura themed offerings; ice-cream, Kit-Kats, potato chips, lattes and all the sweet treats. Opting out of the pink novelty food but swept up in the festivity of the moment we curiously bought a jar of preserved cherry blossoms to take home as a culinary momento. The sakura flowers are pickled whole in Japanese plum vinegar before being dried in salt. Researching how to cook with these pickled blooms we found they can be enjoyed as sakura onigiri; the sweet and salty buds acting as umami explosions through the pillowy neutral flavoured rice. Adding in toasted sesame seeds for their crunch and nutty flavour and you have a simple 4 ingredient recipe for an easy snack; perfect for adventuring, to sustain you through an afternoon of work or to make life a little more delicious.
Makes 10 onigiri
- 1 cup of medium grain white rice
- 30 preserved sakura flowers
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 sheet of nori seaweed
- In a small pot rinse and drain the rice thoroughly three times with water before adding 1.5 cups of water and bring to the boil with a lid on. Once boiling turn the heat down to a roaring simmer
- Once all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, scoop it out and pat into a thin layer on a baking tray - this is so the rice cools quickly and makes it easy to mix through the other ingredients
- Rinse the sakura flowers to remove some of the salt and chop 20 of these (bud, stem and all) into little pieces
- Sprinkle the sakura pieces and sesame seeds evenly over the rice and mix through with a spoon
- Thoroughly wet both your hands, yes so they are lightly dripping, and scoop up a handful of the onigiri mixture
- Using both hands cup and compact the rice together so it sticks together in a ball
- Shape into a triangle by flattening one side on a wet chopping board and pat the top into a peak
- Press one of the remaining 10 sakura buds into the front of each onigiri. If you like extra crunch you can roll each onigiri in sesame seeds
- Cut a strip of the nori seaweed and wrap around each onigiri piece - be as creative as you like
- Eat right away or store in the fridge for a few days when you require a much needed adventure/work/life snack!
- Every time you handle the onigiri make sure you have wet hands otherwise rice will stick to them and you may become a little frustrated
- You can make these onigiri with brown rice just make sure that it is medium grain as the longer grain rice varieties do not hold together so well
- Don't fancy exotic ingredients? Forgo the sakura and enjoy plain with the sesame seeds, just add a little salt to taste