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sparkle kitchen: onigiri

In this week's Martin & Sylvia: Saturdays! story, “Lunch Box,” Martin notices that the construction workers downtown as well as the children from the local school all have little lunch boxes they carry around. This makes him wonder—why don't he and Sylvia have lunch boxes? And if they did have them—what images would they want on the outside? This sets off a fun adventure of finding, adapting and decorating their own lunch boxes.

One of my favorite places to shop for lunch boxes and doodads is our local international market. From themed bento boxes to rice molds, from our favorite “Pocky” candy to the tentacled sea creatures in the meat case, it's always an adventure!

But what to put in those adorable bento boxes?

Of course, peanut butter and jelly would be fine — even standard lunch fare is more exciting in cute packaging — but, if you feel like continuing the Japanese theme, give these onigiri a try.

Onigiri are balls of rice with filling. Sometimes they're fried. Sometimes they're covered with seeds or nori on the outside. Sometimes they're fancy, sometimes they're humble. But if you can cook a pot of rice, you can make them.

The recipe below includes a variation for two fillings — spicy tuna and pickled plums. Both are good, but the pickled plums can be a little hard to find, so feel free not to bother with it if you don't have an international market of your own nearby.

Onigiri (makes about 7 golf ball sized rice balls)


1 cup sushi (or medium grain) rice

1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

For spicy tuna filling

1 2.5-oz packet tuna

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sriracha (to taste)

For the pickled plum filling

1 small package pickled plums

For toppings

Crumbled nori

2 tablespoons sesame seeds


onigiri 1|| martin & sylvia: Saturdays!

Pour the sushi rice into a clean white dishtowel. Gather up the corners of the towel, and run the rice under cold water until the water runs clear.

Cook the rice in whatever method makes you most comfortable. I love my rice cooker, but stovetop will work just fine, too. However you decide, you're aiming to get the rice cooked down to a sticky, clump-able consistency. onigiri 2|| martin & sylvia: Saturdays!

Once the rice is cooked, pour it into a large bowl or lay it out on a tray. While the rice is hot, sprinkle the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt over the top and toss it in gently. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature.

While the rice cools, prepare the spicy tuna filling. To do so, mix the tuna, mayonnaise and sriracha together in a small bowl.

onigiri 3 || martin & sylvia: Saturdays!

When the rice is ready, prepare a bowl of cold water to dip your fingers into, and get all of your fillings close at hand. Keeping your fingers damp, spoon two or three big spoonfuls of rice onto your hand. Flatten the rice into a small pancake-shape, then put a dollop of filling (alternate spicy tuna and pickled plums) in the middle. Again keeping your hands and fingers damp, form the rice around the filling into a ball.

onigiri 5 || martin & sylvia: Saturdays!

You can decorate the outside of your rice ball with sesame seeds or crumbled nori, or you can just enjoy them plain. Tuck them into a lunch box — with a soy sauce packet and some sugar snap peas — for a beautiful meal.

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About the Author

Meryl Carver-Allmond
Sparkle Kitchen & Craft Blogger

The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.

Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.

When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.

Martin & Sylvia: Saturdays!

Saturdays are special days for our creative brother and sister. From enormous art projects in their own backyard to "explorers" adventures up Mooseberry mountain; from mornings of quiet building along the creek, to whole-family canning adventures in the kitchen, the children find fun and inspiration at every turn. Follow along with Martin and Sylvia's family, and then visit the Sparkle Blog to find project ideas and free printables inspired by each week's story.