Umami Mart Registry

Not many snacks require instructions, but you'll be left hungry if you don't play by the rules when eating an onigiri (rice ball). A traditional Japanese snack, onigiri is made of salted rice, loaded with a savory center, and wrapped in a seaweed jacket. The seaweed is usually wrapped in plastic, so that it doesn't get soggy in the market, and you have a flaky seaweed crunch when you bite into it. I'm unwrapping the rice-ball in my head right now as if I'm undressing someone with my eyes; it's very rewarding.

I took this photo at Tskuiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan in 2009. It was trip filled with fermented soy products, green-tea-flavored-everything, food on sticks, and rice on rice on rice balls -- I thought I knew it all, I thought I had it all figured out, until I came home.

One of my first memories of eating an onigiri was tragic. I took myself on a solo dinner-and-a-movie date a few years ago and went to Nijiya market to load up on snacks. So there I was, in the dark theater; I cracked open my can of Asahi and reached for my onigiri. My eyes were fixated on the screen instead of the ball, and I got seaweed everywhere, but the rice. It was like doing onigiri-origami in the dark, and my lack of focus resulted in Pocky and beer for dinner.

Let me give you a couple tricks when it comes to enjoying one of these treats.

First, get acquainted with your onigiri. Flip it upside down and check out the diagram demonstrating the proper onigiri ritual. But if it were that easy, I wouldn't be here right now breaking it down, so lets continue. Underneath the label, the rice ball also has numbers to guide you -- good rule of thumb: start with numero uno.

Alright, go ahead and pull the tab.

It should split the plastic casing in half. If you haven't dropped the actual rice ball on the ground yet, congratulations, you have made it to the next round.

Now here's where you need to have some coordination. RELAX, take a deep breathe, you're in the home stretch!! Remove the corner sleeve labeled 'two' with one hand and grab onto the seaweed covering the rice with the other.

NICE JOB, YOU'VE GOT THIS! Now repeat with the opposite side.

Rad, you did it: you've successfully unwrapped an onigiri. Shape the seaweed to the rice ball; you are officially a classy snacker.


It's not that scary once you accept and follow the damn directions, right? How rewarding! Now you can live a new life filled with BALLS!!! Of rice.

The onigiri above is made by Peko-Peko, and sold at Umami Mart Tuesday-Friday! It's a wrapper's delight!

*If she's not zipping around the city on her beat up Nishiki, you can most likely find MellyG cruising the aisles of a mercado. Listening to the radio and searching for the perfect snack are the daily duties of this San Francisco native. 
Column: Spotlight


  • I’m loving this. I avoided these things like the plague before. Thanks for breaking it down. Now I won’t look like an ass trying to unwrap on of these puppies!

    Julian on

  • Melly, welcome to the blog!!! What a great first post. Very informative.

    yoko on

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