Although we listed sashimi/sushi the Top 1 favorite meal option, we actually prefer sashimi to sushi because the purity and freshness of the seafood itself is irreplaceable. However, it doesn't mean that we don't like rice and we do have our favorite rice based Japanese food, which is onigiri.
O-nigiri (お握り or 御握り; おにぎり), also known as o-musubi, nigirimeshi or rice ball, is made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and often wrapped in seaweed. Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume, salted salmon, bonito flakes, kombu, tarako (roe food), or any other salty or sour ingredient as a natural preservative. It is easy to carry and preserved in ancient times, and is low in cost, easy to make so became a common meal food for indoor households and outdoor labors.
It was believed that onigiri could not be mass-produced as the hand-rolling technique was difficult for a machine to replicate, until 1980s, a machine that made triangular onigiri was designed. However, the technology was bad and the seaweed got sticky with the flavor on top of the rice rather than inside. Later on, a packaging improvement allowed the nori to be stored separately from the rice and derived into the modern mechanical way of wrapping the onigiri. A layer of plastic wrapping is in between the nori and rice to act as a moisture barrier. When the packaging is pulled open at both ends, the nori and rice come into contact. With these developments, onigiri mass production is possible.
In Japan the best places for tasty onigiri are not restaurants but convenience stores and specialized onigiri take-out shops. Onigiri with various fillings and flavors are can be found in those places. In the US, many family owned Japanese grocery stores sell delicious onigiri, along with bento boxes. We can't wait to get our favorite tuna onirigi over the weekend. How about you?