Salt-grilled sake (salmon) onigiri recipe

Sake (salmon) is one of THE classic onigiri fillings. To be flavorful enough for a proportionately large amount of rice, it must be liberally salted before grilling or broiling. Here’s a simple recipe for salt-grilled salmon. It should be well-cooked for using in onigiri — not too soft.

Once the salmon is prepared in this way, it stays fresh for a few days and can be kept in the fridge to have on hand for placing in bentos and using for ochazuke (rice with tea) as well as for filling onigiri.

You’ll first need to break the salmon into bite-sized pieces before filling the onigiri. The amount of  salmon pictured here (about 4 oz) can make four or five onigiri. If you haven’t read the previous blog about onigiri basics, which include making rice and getting ready, you might want to do so now.

Making Onigiri, step-by-step



1. Wet hands with water and coat liberally with salt.
2. Scoop 1/2 cup of rice into the palm of your hand. It will be a little hot at first, so take care!
3. Make an indentation in the middle of the rice.
4. Place a piece of salmon in the indentation. The piece shown here is rather large for onigiri, but I prefer more filling. It's a matter of taste.
5. Press the rice firmly, but not too hard, or the onigiri will become too dense.
6. Keep pressing and turning the rice, shaping it into a triangle. The trick is to work fast so that the rice doesn't start sticking to your hands. If this happens, dip your hands into water again. Alternatively, you can cheat and use plastic wrap. (It's OK, lots of people use plastic wrap!)
7. Wrap a 1" strip of nori (seaweed) around the onigiri. This not only adds flavor, but keeps the diner's hands from getting sticky. Some people prefer to add the nori just before serving so that the nori still retains a crisp texture. Other people like the nori to soften and meld with the rice.
8. The completed onigiri is a beautiful thing, no matter how imperfect the shape. The challenge now is to keep yourself from devouring it at once!

We’ll feature other classic onigiri recipes during September. I also thought it might be fun to gather some unconventional recipes for later in the year. We’d love to hear from you if you have anything to share.