Yaki Onigiri Recipe -- Grilled Japanese Rice Balls -- Gluten Free, Vegan, Allergy Friendly, and Frugal

I posted about my recent dinner party that I hosted for a large crowd, where I served poke bowls, and mentioned that I cooked far too much food. (Hey, better too much food than too little?) What I didn't mention was just how much sushi rice I cooked. I cooked 6 kilograms of sushi rice. That was a huge amount. I severely severely overestimated how much we'd need.

Which meant that unless I wanted to throw out leftovers, I had to get creative with how I'd use up this sushi rice of mine. 

We did a few more meals of poke bowls but then that got to be too much. I made some stir fry using sushi rice.

But then I remembered onigiri. Onigiri are sushi rice balls, basically. Actually, they are generally made from sticky rice that hasn't been seasoned with the vinegar sugar mixture, but I had that anyhow, and often onigiri rice balls are filled with something salty and/or sour so it's a similar flavor, I guess. 

Anyhow, while onigiri is just "regular" rice balls, yaki onigiri is when they are grilled. Or, if you aren't making a barbecue, you can also toast these in a cast iron skillet or on a cast iron griddle. To do this, all you really need to do is make a tight ball of your sticky rice, and then grill it.

However, when I tried doing this, because my rice wasn't fresh anymore and I was taking it out of the fridge which makes the rice harder and less sticky, my yaki onigiri fell apart. I read on this recipe for yaki onigiri that if your rice falls apart, you can add some potato starch to the mixture, which will then hold it together. And voila, I did it! (I didn't measure the starch, just eyeballed it.)

Something I realized, though, is that if you want your yaki onigiri to be crispy on all sides, you can't keep it in a round ball. You need to shape it. Once I added the starch, I was able to shape it with my hands. Got my hands a bit wet, got some rice mixed with starch, then shaped them into triangle shapes with flat sides. Not a pyramid, but the shape a triangle shaped wedge of cheese would be. (Sorry, my brain is too tired to think what this shape is called. Google tells me its called a triangle prism.)

I then heated my cast iron griddle until it was steaming, added just a touch of oil, and then added my onigiri. I was able to fit in a bunch at once, making sure they weren't touching, and when each side browned (don't pick it up until you are sure it is at least somewhat browned or you'll make it fall apart) flipped it over to another side. You want to be cooking all side sides of each onigiri. Depending on your taste you can make this lighter or darker. I actually quite enjoyed it with a bit of char, so in the future I will make all of mine that color, but feel free to do it as you want.

Traditionally, these will then be brushed with a soy or miso mixture then returned to the grill, but I decided to just eat it dipped in soy sauce.

It was actually quite quick to make these and they were a great snack. I still haven't used up all my rice (fortunately or unfortunately my fridge is cold enough that things freeze in it and my leftover sushi rice was partially frozen which is why it is still good) so I will definitely be doing this again. And honestly, it is so tasty that I think I will do this in the future not just as a way to use up leftovers, but intentionally.

Highly recommended.

Oh, and did I forget to mention these stuff are naturally gluten free, vegan, allergy friendly, and its a darn cheap recipe and wonderful for people trying to eliminate food waste?

Yea, make them.

Have you ever made or had yaki onigiri? Does this look like something you'd make or enjoy, or do you never have extra sushi rice? What is the most you've ever over cooked? Ever make 6 kilos of rice in one go? (How did I do that, you may ask? 3 pots with one kilogram each, and 3 more pans in the oven. Ok, I was worried I wouldn't have enough food, don't laugh...)

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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