Takana (Japanese mustard green) onigiri recipe

Takana (Japanese mustard green) is wonderfully bitter and slightly spicy; a perfect leafy vegetable for making tsukemono (pickles). You might be able to find takana tsukemono at your local Japanese market, and if you’re lucky, it will come whole, in huge leaves that can be cut down to bite-sized pieces for tucking into the corner of a bento, or to wrap around onigiri, which we’ll do here.

Takana is good for you as well. It has loads of vitamin A and K. I also think that having at least one tsukemono onigiri in a grouping of onigiri provides a nice contrast of color, texture and flavor, especially when eaten with rich, oily fillings like ikura (salmon caviar).

Making takana onigiri, step-by-step

1. Chop up one takana leaf into a fine dice. Mix well with hot rice so that it is evenly incorporated. If you are making a variety of onigiri, you can just mix the takana into part of a bowl of rice -- or if you're more practical -- use separate bowls or save the takana for last
2. Wet and salt hands, and press firmly (but not too hard, remember?), turning and pressing the rice until you form a triangle
3. Stretch a takana leaf out flat and trim away the heavy central stem. You should have a piece large enough to wrap comfortably around the onigiri. And if you're picky (like me) you can orient the veins of the leaf in a pleasant way. You can see what I mean with the last photo.
4. Wrap the takana tightly around the onigiri, one side at a time. It's a little like wrapping a present. The thin -- yet surprisingly strong -- leaf somehow stays in place nicely
5. The finished takana onigiri. Now you can see what I mean about the veins. I don't know if anyone would notice, but I like the way this looks.

OK, as long as we’re talking fussy, take a look at the photo in the Onigiri Basics article and see how you can also arrange a selection of onigiri in a pleasing way, altering colors and flavors. This kind of thing comes natural to many Japanese. It’s part of what I like to call our “power of five” thinking.