04: Samurai BBQ, “Yaki-Onigiri”

Writer: Tamaki Kashiwagi

When rainy season is over in July in Japan, we, the Japanese, enjoy BBQin the summer at a camp siteor garden. Who does not like BBQ? This time,I would like tointroduce aJapanese foodfor BBQ.

You might think BBQ is not a Japanese food. It’s not our tradition to do the western-style outdoor BBQ. But nowadays, we also grill meat, fish and vegetables over the charcoal and firewood during the camping, the same way you do. But we must fuse our “Japaneseness” into the western-style BBQ. We also cook a traditional Japanese food called “Yaki-onigiri” on a BBQ grill.

The base of Yaki-onigiri is “Onigiri”. It is a food made from cooked rice formed into triangular or cylinder shapes (its sometimes called a “rice ball” in English, but actually the shape is not round usually). Yaki-onigiri is Onigiri grilled over the charcoal or fire (Yaki means “grill” in Japanese).

The history of Yaki-onigiri is very interesting. It is basically the food for “Samurai”!! When they went out to a battle, they used to bring Onigiri because it is easy to carry and can eat by hands quickly in the field. Before they ate Onigiri, they stabbed it by their “Katana (a sword, which Samurai believed it has soul)” and put it into fire and warmed it. Can you believe Samurai enjoyed BBQ 1,000 years ago!? The grilling also kills the bacteria on the surface of Onigiri, not only makes it tastier. The ancient wisdom is incredible, isn’t it?

You can enjoy various toppings!!

It’s really easy to make Yaki-onigiri. Put cooked rice in a bowl, add roasted sesame seeds and mix well. Next, shape the rice into a cylinder shape, just like a small thick hamburger. We, the Japanese usually make it into a triangular shape, but it can be any shape. When you form the rice, use a wrap film so that the rice will not stick to your hands.

Then roast them well over your BBQ grill. While grilling, apply soy source to the surface by a brush or miso (soy bean paste) diluted by water and Dashi (the Japanese fish stock), if you have. Turn them a few times and grill them until they become brown on both sides. That’s it! You don’t need to use a sword!! I suggest to put some oil on the grill to prevent the rice from sticking to it. You can grill them in the oven or on a pan also.

The Japanese love this simple Yaki-onigiri, and it is also delicious to add toppings like corns, bell peppers, onion, pizza sauce and cheese like pizza. It is also nice!

I recommend to use the “Japonica rice (short-grain rice)”, also known as “Sushi-rice” if you can find it in your supermarket. I suppose the “Indica rice (long-grain rice)” is more popular outside Japan, but it is better to use the sticky short-grain rice to make Onigiri or Yaki-onigiri because it is easier to shape.

Won’t you try the Samurai food this weekend in your garden?


Yaki-Onigiri Ingredients

Steamed rice            300g
Roasted sesame seeds   To taste
Soy sauce               To taste
Miso+Dashi                 To taste

Pizza sauce    To taste
Bell pepper    To taste
Corn       To taste
Onion       To taste
Cheese           To taste