Here’s what’s dangerous: me, a brand-new set of rice ball makers and the fridge after I go food shopping for the week. I think there’s a misconception that rice balls are Japanese, period. I mean they are, the Japanese definitely invented them, but once you have the proper tools in place to make them because you learned how to use a rice ball maker on Food Republic, you might just go all fusion on everyone.
Easiest part of everything: all that you need can be found on Amazon, from the rice to the cooker to the rice ball mold. Don’t buy a rice cooker; rice is really easy to make. Best part of everything: you’re under no pressure to purchase the star or heart shapes. Here’s the triangle, or you can try your hand at the square (yay for shapes!). I personally like the roll shape; it reminds me of Sushirrito. Most convenient part of all of these: once they’re made, they’re good to go, like, all day no matter what, even in traffic. You wouldn’t even need to drive with your knees in order to eat them. Not that I learned how to do that out of necessity in Los Angeles.
Now, stuffing. I understand the compulsion to reach for the salmon roe (okay maybe that’s only my compulsion) or leftover char siu — something Asian — but I’m crazy into the Forrest Gump school of thought regarding foodstuffs with hidden fillings right now. If you never know what you’re going to get, and you get braised chicken ropa in a rice ball instead of its usual empanada, take a moment and think: will you be a happy camper? Spice-braised chicken and tender rice in the same bite? Yes, definitely. How about tuna salad? This less-than-authentic fish filling is in fact a very popular lunch in Japan and absolutely kills its sandwich counterpart in the flavor department. Any rice-heavy food culture — Mexican, Indian, South American — will translate nicely into a rice ball as long as you remain respectful of all components involved. Real quick: tandoori chicken rice balls with a little cilantro-yogurt sauce are outrageously delicious.
I felt pretty awesome publishing this recipe for pork belly onigiri, which are quickly fried before serving, so definitely feel free to adapt the technique for any rice ball that might benefit from a crispy exterior. So far, I’m thinking all of them.
More rice for lunch on Food Republic: