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Seasons and culture of Japan

Onigiri, a very popular comfort food in Japan

In this article, we will take a look at a very popular Japanese comfort food, which in the West is called rice balls or rice cakes. Basically, these are hand-sized food items made from sticky white rice which is formed into a triangular or round shape. Most rice balls have some kind of filling and are often wrapped in a small rectangular sheet of pressed seaweed (海苔/NORI). In Japanese, this food is called: お結び/OMUSUBI, or more often: お握り/ONIGIRI. The meaning of ONIGIRI comes from the verb NIGIRU: to grasp, press, or form (e.g., with one's hands). Needless to say, ONIGIRI have been around since ancient times in Japan, when rice was first started to be cultivated. They are cheap, nutritious, easy to make, and can be eaten while standing or walking -- a combination of comfort food and fast food. Of note, there is lots of information on the internet about ONIGIRI and the different ways to make them. In Yokosuka-area supermarkets and convenience stores there are sections of shelves which offer many types of ONOGIRI for sale. Additionally, there are a large variety of flavors, ranging from plain white rice to those with fillings like salted salmon, fried beef, tuna salad, shaved fish, pickled vegetables, salted plums, seasoned kelp, etc. Commercially produced ONIGIRI are often ingeniously wrapped in plastic, which keeps the food clean/safe, and opens/unfolds completely by simply pulling on a tab. We hope you will be able to enjoy eating, and perhaps making, this favorite comfort food of Japan. For more background information about ONIGIRI, please see the link below:

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