A relatively easy and mess-free way to make basic filled rice balls (onigiri). I believe that traditional onigiri are made in triangular or ball shapes and are formed in the palms of your hands, then covered with a strip of nori. You can also find cute little molds to make bunny or cat shapes to make these tasty treats even more appealing to children of all ages. This technique uses a sheet of plastic wrap to help you form the rice balls without getting your hands too messy.

Update: I've received a lot of good comments about the traditional method of wetting your hands before working with the rice to keep it from sticking to your hands. The plastic wrap makes it easy for beginners to form the balls; once you're comfortable with that, you should definitely try the wet hands method for a more natural way of forming the rice balls.

Step 1: Lay out the ingredients

Picture of Lay out the ingredients
First you must make sticky rice. Use short-grained sushi rice and cook according to the directions. I like to add about 1/4 cup more water per cup of rice to make it stickier.

Place a couple tablespoons of the cooked rice in the center of the plastic wrap.

Place your desired fillings on top of the rice. In this example, I used common "Philly" roll ingredients: smoked salmon, cream cheese, and chopped chives (instead of scallions).
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just like sushi.
Could you use brown rice, for nutrition and convenience (I don't want to go guy a new rice)???
kidmissile (author)  momonkey19973 years ago
I'm sure you could. You might need to add a little extra water (start w/ +1 Tbsp) to make the rice sticky, or mix in a bit of rice vinegar to the cooked rice and fan it. I recently made sushi rolls using black rice--that was delicious and I believe it packed more nutrition than white rice.
itsthatsguy5 years ago
cool instructable, but, rice balls are supposed to be flat, triangles,  not balls, but thats just presentation
Actually rice balls can be any shape. A triangle is traditional, but there's no right or wrong way to shape them.
sorry rice balls are formed to be balls I put one ume in center and form the ball with a sheet of nori seaweed.
kidmissile (author)  itsthatsguy5 years ago
Did you happen to read my intro to this instructable? ;)

^ feels really stupid, i skip intros and gt to the nitty gritty haha
kidmissile (author)  itsthatsguy5 years ago
hehe, no worries. :)
edAg8 years ago
I love these little guys too, think the pics are great, but... At the core, aren't we talking here about wasting non-recyclable plastic sheet to avoid washing your hands?
kidmissile (author)  edAg8 years ago
That's a good point. I used the plastic wrap for convenience because my hands get rather messy when working with the rice. I'll have to find out what tricks sushi chefs use when shaping rice for nigiri and use that for these balls.
Wet hands, definitely. I always make my sticky rice with sweetened rice vinegar (you can buy sushi vinegar or you can use rice vinegar and add sugar), so I use cold water with a bit of my sushi vinegar in for flavoring instead of salt, since any toppings I add are likely to be salty anyway.
Ice cold salted water. If you dip your hands in that before each ball it seasons the ball perfectly and makes the rice not stick to your hands at all. I at first thought it was Japanese nonsense but I couldn't do without this technique now.
edAg kidmissile8 years ago
I want to say my mom used to dampen her hands slightly to prevent the rice from sticking...
Scurl! edAg8 years ago
it's true. wet hands, and practice. you could salt them too if you like the flavor.
akervin4 years ago
Looks fun! Do you allow the rice to cool before shaping?
Super simple, I loved it! I used salmon, green onion, cream cheese, and a spicy bamboo shoot mix I made, turned out wonderfully! Thank you!
Penny7 years ago
Do you think fine mesh (like a very fine tulle or something like that) might be a suitably green alternative to plastic wrap? That way you can wash and reuse it - maybe even use it as a liner on a sushi rolling mat? Nylon is pretty safe stuff from what I understand and it has worked for reusable produce bags elsewhere on instructables.

One String Bags
kowens Penny5 years ago
If you are really into making onigiri, you can usually find onigiri forms at your local Asian or International grocery. If you don't have one, these websites offer supplies for making onigiri that is reusable.
http://www.j-box.com or Search for J-Box
Amazon and Ebay also sell reusable Obento Supplies
You can also use ice cream molds
kidmissile (author)  kowens5 years ago
Thanks for all those good links!
assuming I work with fresh herbs and no real perishables (I'm thinking chives, garlic, basil and rosemary) how long do you think these will keep without refridgeration. Like if I make a few to take to work with me.
I was looking for an answer to your question and could not reliably find one. However, I did find a site that may be able to answer your question - try http://justbento.com/
SeaLion5 years ago
You can shape it into triangles when it's all wrapped up in the film...the cling film also can be used as packaging such that the onigiri can be put into lunch boxes.
kloklo5 years ago
I love rice so while watching an anime I though what's all the fuss about rice balls... rice will always be rice... well, I was wrong! Somehow I made this in less than 20 min at 2 am... PS: Being Greek I don't really like fish anywhere near my rice but I'm willing to try it soon... for now I just use salt, feta cheese and sweet paprika. :)
Mr. Brownie6 years ago
To make sticky rice, I add mirin and salt once the rice is done cooking.
kidmissile (author)  Mr. Brownie6 years ago
That's a good tip, Mr. Brownie!
I've convinced my mom to let me try making riceballs before the summer's out. She doesn't exactly approve of my 'obsession' as she called it, but if it gets me to learn how to make something other than macaroni and sandwiches...
kidmissile (author)  TeenDreamSequence6 years ago
If you haven't already, show her these instructable pics and she won't be able to resist! ;) Have fun with them!
Charlie11387 years ago
This is kind of a strange question.. but I am trying to figure out how Japanese people eat in common practice.. because I love their food so much. What I mean is, how would you eat these? would you have them with your dinner? Have some for lunch with something else? would you have these as a main course or an appetizer?
kidmissile (author)  Charlie11387 years ago
All of the above? (That's what I do, but I am neither Japanese nor familiar with true Japanese culture.) Good question, maybe someone more familiar this can chime in?
It's a finger food, not really a lunch per se nor a snack. Instead of eating a full lunch you would have like generally 3 of these packed up. Though I think they make them a little bigger. Anywho they just eat them as is, like finger food. Mostly this is used as a pick me up type food, but they can be used as a lunch, if you eat all three. But the Japanese way is to grab it and take a bite out of it. Nothing really special on how to eat it.
they are used as a quick lunch or a snack.. they are kinda the Japanese equivilent of grabing a sandwich :D
They look cute and appetizing. I once tried to make my own onigiri after eating it at a restaurant, but I failed. This would be a neat lunch box idea. I have some furikake that needs to be eaten. I can't wait to try this over the weekend. Thanks.
I finally made rice balls tonight! I used salmon, cream cheese, and chives as the filling. I also sprinkled furikake on top of the balls.

I sprinkled just a little bit of water (to prevent sticking) and salt (for some flavor) onto the plastic before adding the ingredients.

Instead of laying the plastic on a flat surface, I put it inside of a small condiment bowl to keep the ingredients in place.

I'll make this again. =)
kidmissile (author)  container_gardener6 years ago
Hey cool, glad that it worked out for you! =)
Umeko6 years ago
Awesome Idea! I have just started getting into Bento and have 100 things I want to try but this was one thing I had no idea how to make into a good shape without a plastic mold (have enough rubbish in my kitchen without annother gadget lol) I love these rice balls and now can make my own without lots of mess!
I made these and they were huge, are yours bite sized?
kidmissile (author)  Huray4Insanity7 years ago
The ones I make aren't too large, about two-bite-sized. Try experimenting with less rice. If it doesn't turn out right, just pop it into your mouth. ;)
Mattrox7 years ago
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Looks great can't wait to makes some looks delicous ps good idea for using plastic wrap
jackcday7 years ago
If you splash rice vinegar on your hands when making it it stops the rice sticking to your hands! I learn this from a little sushi book i have.
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