Onigiri, Japanese rice balls, are on about the same level as a rubix cube.
This fact isn’t very well publicized, but the truth is that opening a rice ball is difficult. Even my native Japanese friends admit that they often tear their nori (seaweed). This is even after 20+ years of experience with convenience store-bought onigiri.
So, I’m here to (hopefully!) clear up the mystery that is the way to open onigiri. With illustrations!
For the first huge hint: Take a look at the bottom of your onigiri. Even if you can’t read Japanese, often diagrams of how to open onigiri are included. Of course, if it is your first time, this, however, may not be enough. So on to the step-by-step!
How to Open Onigiri
1. Acquire your onigiri
For this tutorial, I chose one of my favorite and one of the most common flavors of onigiri: okaka. Okaka is basically salmon flakes. Delicious, right?
2. Grab the top tab
First, take hold of the tab at the top. On this onigiri, this tab is labeled “1” for easy step-by-step unwrapping.
3. Pull down on the top tab
Then, pull down on the top tab. It should unravel in a nice, simple strip all around the onigiri. See the photo above and below for a visual.
4. Unravel the strip connected to the first tab
Once you’ve completed this step, your onigiri should look something like the above photo.
5. Grab the wrapper on one side of the onigiri
Now we are getting to the tricky part. If you aren’t careful, you may rip the seaweed surrounding your rice ball. Lightly grab onto the wrapper on one of the sides of the onigiri, being careful not to grab on to the seaweed as well. The right-hand corner on this onigiri is labeled “2” for easy, step-by-step unwrapping.
6. Lightly pull on the corner
Again, being very careful, pull on the corner you’ve just grabbed. It may help to hold on to the other side of the onigiri with your other hand. If you pull gently with a slightly upward movement, the wrapper on one side of the onigiri should slide off.
7. Grab on to the remaining corner’s wrapper
Once you’ve gently slid the wrapper off one corner of the onigiri, grab onto the wrapper on the other side of the onigiri. On this onigiri, the last corner is labeled “3” for step-by-step guidance.
8. Gently pull on the last corner wrapper
Again, this part is a little tricky. The possibility of tearing the seaweed covering is high, so be careful. Lightly pull on the last part of the wrapper, with a slight upward movement. It may help to hold on to the onigiri with the other hand.
9. Enjoy your onigiri!
You’ve successfully unwrapped your onigiri without putting a single crack in the seaweed.
What will you do to celebrate? Eat your onigiri? Buy even more rice balls and show off your unwrapping skills to your friends? The possibilities are endless!