OISHII / Wrapper’s delights: onigiri rice balls with a basted beef coating

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Rice balls wrapped in meat

The Yomiuri ShimbunOnigiri rice balls wrapped in meat

In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.

Now that early summer is upon us, cooking expert Hatsue Shigenobu introduces a simple recipe for onigiri rice balls wrapped in meat. You use sushi vinegared rice mixed with Japanese pickles to make the onigiri rice balls, which are wrapped in beef. You then pour sauce over the top and cook them. The light and refreshing flavor of sushi rice and the salty-sweet taste of the meat are well balanced. It is also a filling dish.

Wrapping sushi rice in meat is not very common. “[But] you can feel full without needing to eat side dishes as well,” Shigenobu said.

Thinly sliced round beef is used in this recipe. “It is thin and has little fat. It also tastes good cold,” Shigenobu said.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Beef sandwiches

As the meat is thinly sliced, it can be easily cooked through, so it is safe to use the dish for bento meals. Since the meat has little fat, it does not break apart easily when it is used to wrap sushi rice balls, according to Shigenobu.

You start by making the sushi rice. Cook the rice until it is firm, and make sushi sweetened vinegar to drizzle over it. Since Japanese pickles are mixed with the rice, less salt than usual is used to make the sushi vinegar in this recipe.

The rice is then mixed with scrambled egg and pickles. Scramble the egg in a pan, occasionally removing the pan from the heat, and break up the egg into small bits. Mix the scrambled egg with the sushi rice, and divide the rice in half.

Mix roughly chopped shibazuke Japanese pickle with one half of the rice and nozawanazuke pickles with the other half. “If the Japanese pickles have a lot of water, lightly squeeze them before adding them to the sushi rice,” Shigenobu said. Feel free to use your own favorite Japanese pickles instead, such as takuan and takana.

Shape the sushi rice into short rounded bars and wrap each rice ball with the meat, paying attention not to leave any gaps. Then coat each rice ball with flour. “This will help the sauce baste better with the meat and prevent the meat from shrinking and falling apart when it is cooked,” Shigenobu said. Lightly coating the rice balls with the sauce will prevent them from becoming gooey.

When you start cooking the meat-wrapped rice balls, place them in the pan with the folded side down, but be sure to cook all sides of each rice ball until they are browned well. Pour the sauce over them in a circular motion. Cook the rice balls over low heat so they don’t get burned. When the entire surface becomes glossy, they are done.

Even when eaten cold, the meat covering the rice balls is very soft. The juicy meat, which the sauce had seeped into, went well with the light and refreshing flavor of sushi rice mixed with Japanese pickles. The dish would be good to bring along on a summer outing.

Recipe for rice balls wrapped in meat

Ingredients (serves 2):

8 thin pieces of round beef (160 grams)

340 grams hot rice

1 egg

20 grams each of shibazuke and nozawanazuke Japanese pickles



1. Beat egg, add ½ teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt and mix. Pour the beaten egg into a nonstick pan and scramble over medium-low heat while breaking it up using chopsticks.

2. Make sushi sweetened vinegar by mixing 1½ tablespoons of vinegar, ⅔ tablespoon of sugar and ⅓ teaspoon of salt. Pour the vinegar over the rice in a circular motion and mix it into the rice with a rice paddle using a lifting and cutting motion so as not to crush the rice grains. Add the scrambled egg to the rice and mix further in the same way. Divide the rice in half.

3. Roughly chop Japanese pickles. Add shibazuke pickles to one half of the rice and nozawanazuke pickles to the other half. Divide each half into four portions and shape each portion into a short rounded bar. Lay out the meat and wrap each rice ball in the meat. Lightly coat each rice ball with flour using a tea strainer or other sieve-like tool.

4. Heat ½ tablespoon of cooking oil in a pan. Place rice balls in the oiled pan with the side where the meat overlaps facing down. Cook the rice balls over medium heat for three or four minutes, turning them to cook each side until all sides are browned.

5. Make sauce by mixing a tablespoon each of sake and soy sauce and ½ tablespoon of sugar, and pour the sauce over the top in a circular motion. Cook until the liquid evaporates and the meat becomes glossy, and baste the meat with the sauce for two minutes over low heat.

Beef sandwiches also great

Shigenobu recommends sandwiches using the same amount of meat and sauce as those for the onigiri rice balls. Mix the sauce with a teaspoon of starch and mix it into the meat. Stir-fry the meat in an oiled pan over medium heat for two or three minutes. Mix a pinch of salt into 100 grams of shredded cabbage. Use thin-sliced bread to make the sandwiches — two slices from a standard Japanese eight-slice loaf is ideal. Butter each slice on one side. Place half of the shredded cabbage on one slice of bread and add mayonnaise. Put half of the meat on the bread and place the other slice of bread on top. Repeat with two more slices of bread to make a second sandwich. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.

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