Tuna Yaki Onigiri

The combo of rice and soy sauce is just something that is so simple and satisfying.

In case you are unfamiliar with onigiri, they are popular Japanese snacks. A simple flavoured rice ball that can be served with, or without fillings. They are commonly shaped as a ball or a triangle. Onigiri come in a wide variety, some of my favourites are umeboshi with nori, or just toasted sesame seeds and shio kombu, the key of a good onigiri is well-seasoned, high quality sushi rice.  

While onigiri alone is already great, YAKI ONIGIRI is even better!

If you want to enhance the experience on texture and flavour, with a brush of umami miso glaze on the surface over onigiri and sear until golden (not burnt!) for a crispy crust outside and soft rice within… OISHI!

I remember when I was in elementary school, after getting off the school bus, I would hop into the convenient store at the bus stop and buy an onigiri together with a packet of warm soy milk. They were such a cozy after school snacks!

More fun and plant-based fillings idea that come to my mind are kimchi, plant caviar or even vegan sausage.

If you have cooked with miso in the past, you might notice that miso are easily burnt on a hot pan. I have learned a trick to sear onirigi without burning them. Pre-cut a piece of parchment paper and use that as an insolation for onigiri will do the trick. Just to be sure that the parchment is not overhanging outside of the pan to avoid catching fire.

Makes 8

  • 1 pack of plant-based tuna, thawed (I use Toonish from Hooked Foods) or canned tuna or salmon in brine
  • 3 cups cooked, Koshihikari rice
  • 1 sheet nori
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt to taste (my favorite salt is Amabito no Moshio)

Fillings marinade

  • 1.5 tbsp Japanese soy
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • Pinch of togarashi (optional)

Miso glaze

  • 2 tbsp white miso
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sugar

Recipe Preparation

Place your choice or protein, drain brine from tuna/salmon if using, in a small bowl and mix with all marinade ingredients. Set aside.

Miso glaze:

Add all ingredients in a small bowl, whisk to combine. Set aside.

Shred nori into thin threads with scissors, about 2-3cm length and 0.5cm wide.

Rice has to be quite warm during assembly. To keep the cooked rice warm and moist, damp a few pieces of kitchen paper and place over the bowl to trap the heat for longer, spread out the rice and sprinkle over shredded nori, toasted sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix well and cover with damp kitchen paper.


Prepare your work station

  • a bowl of clean water
  • Small bowl of salt and a teaspoon
  • Clean chopping board or plate, lined with parchment paper
  • Shallow non-stick frying pan
  • Pre-cut parchment paper over frying pan

Wet your palms with water and sprinkle some salt on your palms and have a gentle rub to have salt all over your palms. Pick up about 3 tablespoons of seasoned rice on one hand and gently press rice quite tightly together to form a 6cm flat disc, spoon over about 1.5 teaspoon of filling in the center of the disc. While one hand is holding the rice with filling, wet the other hand with water once again and pick up some rice, place over the filled rice disc. Now press the rice together firmly and keep turning and pressing, gradually shaping it into a triangle with your fingers and palms. Onigiri has to be firmly pressed to avoid breaking during transfer or grilling or flipping. Place prepared onirigi on the prepared parchment paper. Repeat remaining ingredients to form 7 more onigiri.

Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium-medium high, depending on the power of your stove. Brush an even layer of miso glaze over each onigiri. Place pre-cut parchment paper onto the pan. Place 3-4 onigiri, miso glaze side down, into the pan and gently press the surface against the parchment with wet fingers to avoid rice sticking to your hands. Sear onigiri until golden brown, about 1 min (+/-). Meanwhile, brush the upper side of onigiri with miso glaze before flipping over. Remove yaki onigiri to serving plate and repeat remaining onigiri. Reduce heat on the second batch of onigiri to avoid burning.

Serve yaki onigiri immediately, or wrap individually and refrigerate for later, simply bring refrigerated onigiri back to room temperate before serving.

Onigiri can be kept, wrapped and covered for up to 3 days.

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