An onigiri is a Japanese rice ball usually stuffed with savory ingredients. For this version, we use halibut burger meat for its delicate flavor and texture. Its firm white flesh has a wonderful texture, even when raw. Mixed with a touch of Japanese mayonnaise, roasted seaweed, and togarashi (a Japanese spice blend available in Asian markets or online), this hand-sized umami bomb will become a go-to snack.
- ¼ cup halibut burger meat (about 2 ounces)
- 1 ½ cups warm, cooked sushi rice
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 full-size sheet nori (roasted seaweed)
- 4 teaspoons mayonnaise, preferably Kewpie
- ¼ teaspoon togarashi, plus more to garnish
In a medium bowl, combine the cooked rice with the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Cover and keep warm.
With tongs over a gas burner, toast the seaweed about 6-inches from the flame, until it begins to sizzle, adjusting the height to avoid burning. Alternatively, bake the seaweed at 350°F for 5 minutes, or until crisp. Finely crumble the seaweed into a small bowl.
In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of the toasted seaweed, and togarashi. Stir in the halibut until evenly combined.
In a small bowl, combine ½ cup water and 1 teaspoon of salt. This will be used to dunk your hands in so the rice doesn’t stick to them while forming the rice balls. It also helps season the exterior of your onigiri.
Dip your hands into the salted water and form ¼ cup of rice into patty. Make a small indentation with your thumb in the middle. Add one fourth of the halibut mixture to the indentation, and top with 2 tablespoons of rice. Press the onigiri between your palms as if to make a snowball, being careful to seal in the filling. Repeat to make a total of four rice balls.
Eat while warm, or wrap in plastic and refrigerate to enjoy later. These onigiri are best eaten the day they’re made.
If you have a triangular onigiri mold, line it with plastic wrap, and place the rice ball in the hole, cover with plastic wrap, and press. If you’d like, add a little dab of unseasoned mayo on an edge of the onigiri, and dip in remaining seaweed to create an extra flavorful first bite. Then lay the onigiri down flat, and sprinkle it on one side with togarashi.
Know Your Cook
- Michael Harlan Turkell -
Michael Harlan Turkell, a once aspiring chef, is now an award-winning food photographer and writer. He has photographed many prominent chefs’ cookbooks, co-authored a few, and even wrote one of his own, ACID TRIP: Travels in the Word of Vinegar. Turkell also hosted The Food Seen podcast on Heritage Radio Network for nearly a decade. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.