For long day hikes, I usually pack a bunch of nuts, dried fruit, meat bars, and fresh fruit if I have an apple or orange handy. All these snacks combined are usually good to satisfy me. But sometimes when we have left over rice, I like to get fancy and make onigiri, aka rice balls.
They’re perfect for a lunch break during a long hike. The rice, the seaweed, and the special filling in the middle fulfills cravings for actual food while on the trail. You just have to pack them carefully because they can get easily squashed, then you’ll just have a sad pile of messy rice. For hiking, we wrapped them in saran wrap and parchment paper than stored them in a tin lunch box. If you’re iffy about taking them on the trail, they’re also great for car camping or picnics.
It’s best if you make them the night before eating them. They are usually still good if you eat them the next day but can get kind of weird and dry if you leave them unrefrigerated longer. I’ve left them for two nights and while they didn’t spoil, they were dry and the shape just fell apart once I bit into them.
Rice balls are usually shaped in a cylindrical form or as a triangle. I like to form my onigiri into triangles for no other reason than it looks cooler and sort of cute. It might take you a few tries to form your onigiri into a triangle, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. Check out this video or this video for how to form onigiri.
There’s ton of ways you can make rice balls. The ones I made are pretty simple and more importantly, non-perishable. It was just rice, seaweed, and canned salmon in the center.
- Short Grain Sticky Rice
- Canned Salmon (you can also use tuna or pickled plums, etc)
- Soy Sauce
- Sriracha (or your choice of seasoning)
- Sesame Seeds
- Nori (seaweed)
- Water (this is to wet your hands to handle the rice)
Cook the rice.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the salmon. Put salmon, soy sauce, and sriracha in a bowl and stir until combined.
Fill another bowl with warm water. Stir a pinch of salt into the water until blended. You will use this water to dab on your hands before handling the rice. This will help the rice not stick to your hands.
Once the rice is finished, let it cool down a bit until it's warm enough to handle.
Wet your hands with the salt water and place one or two spoonfuls of rice into the palm of your hands. Begin shaping the rice into a triangle, dabbing water on your hands when needed.
Once the rice ball is shaped (doesn't need to be perfect at this point), create an indent in the center of the rice ball, and put some of the salmon filling into it. Cover the indent with a bit of rice, and being shaping again. (For shaping instructions, see the video links in the article above)
Once your rice ball is shaped into a triangle that satisfies you, top it off with sesame seeds.
Wrap the rice ball in saran wrap and parchment paper. Remember to pack nori to wrap the rice ball in once you're ready to eat it! (If you wrap the nori a day ahead, the moisture of the rice will make the nori moist also, not good!)