You might have seen or heard ‘rice ball’ that is Onigiri in Japanese. The shape of Onigiri is not round as ball but triangular actually. Onigiri are easy to make and easy to eat with a hand which are just like Sandwiches for Western countries. Traditionally, onigiri is filled with pickled umeboshi (plum), salted salmon, Katsuobushi, Kombu, Tarako, or any other salty ingredient as a natural preservative. Because of the popularity of onigiri in Japan, most convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors.
Despite common misconceptions, onigiri is not a form of sushi. Onigiri is made with plain rice, while sushi is made of rice with vinegar, sugar and salt. Onigiri makes rice portable and easy to eat as well as preserving it, while sushi originated as a way of preserving fish. Nowadays, onigiri are also found in many convenience stores in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, Switzerland, and parts of California.
In lady Murasaki’s 11th-century diary Murasaki Shikibu Nikki, she writes of people eating rice balls. At that time, onigiri were called tonjiki and often consumed at outdoor picnic lunches. Other writings, dating back as far as the seventeenth century, state that many samurai stored rice balls wrapped in bamboo sheath as a quick lunchtime meal during war, but the origins of onigiri are much earlier even than Lady Murasaki.
Before the use of chopsticks became widespread, in the Nara period, rice was often rolled into a small ball so that it could be easily picked up. In the Heian period, rice was also made into small rectangular shapes known as tonjiki so that they could be piled onto a plate and easily eaten.
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