Now that we’re sheltering in place, and my kids and husband are home for every meal with me, I needed to add a few more easy lunch ideas to my rotation. Yaki onigiri is great because they can be prepared with all shelf-stable ingredients—short-grain rice, canned salmon (or tuna), soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. You can also use shredded roast chicken as a filling if you have it on hand. The onigiri can be made ahead, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and stored in your refrigerator until you’re ready to heat them. It’s also a fun recipe to cook with kids if you’re looking for an easy project to get them engaged in the kitchen with you.

salmon yaki onigiri | Jennifer Tyler Lee | Half the Sugar All the Love


Serves 4

Modified based on the original recipe in Half the Sugar, All the Love.

Yaki onigiri is made from white rice that is formed into a compact triangular shape, grilled until crisp and lightly browned, and brushed with a salty-sweet soy glaze. This handheld Japanese treat can be prepared plain or with a small amount of filling. Here, we’ve included cooked salmon and used a ginger-soy glaze to sweeten the outside. While yaki onigiri is best served hot for maximum crispness, it is no less delicious tucked into a lunch box (with an ice pack) and eaten several hours later, although it will be softer and chewier in texture.

1 1/4 cups short-grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 5oz can salmon
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic

1. Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Transfer the rice to a small saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stir the rice, then reduce the heat to low.

2. Cover and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork. Set aside, uncovered, and let cool slightly. You should have about 4 cups of rice.

3. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Set aside.

4. When the rice is still warm but cool enough to handle, form the onigiri: Lightly wet your hands. For each onigiri, scoop out 1/2 cup lightly
packed rice. Take about two thirds of this rice and place it in the palm of your nondominant hand. Using the fingertips of your other hand, gently press a shallow well into the center of the rice and fill it with 1 tablespoon of the flaked salmon. Add the remaining one third of the rice on top. Use both hands to gently press and shape the rice into a triangular form. Set the onigiri aside on a plastic wrap–lined plate and repeat with the remaining rice and salmon.

5. If making ahead, wrap each onigiri individually with plastic wrap. Refrigerate up to overnight and unwrap just before pan-frying.

6. Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons oil evenly on a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet and warm over medium heat. Arrange the rice balls in a single layer and cook until lightly browned and crispy on the bottom. Flip with a spatula and cook until the other side is lightly browned and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes total.

7. Using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides of the onigiri with the ginger-soy glaze. Gently turn the onigiri over and cook until lightly browned on the bottom, about 30 seconds. Meanwhile, brush the other side with the remaining glaze. Turn the onigiri over and cook until lightly browned on the other side, about 30 seconds.

8. Using a spatula, transfer the onigiri to a platter. Serve immediately, or let cool slightly and wrap individually with plastic wrap, pack in a lunch box with an ice pack, and eat within 4 to 5 hours.

What Kids Can Do
Kids can help mold the rice balls.

Half the Sugar, All the Love by Jennifer Tyler Lee

Excerpted from Half the Sugar, All the Love by Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH. Photographs by Erin Scott. Workman Publishing ©2019.