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  • Recipe Redux: Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) With Smoked Salmon, Dill & Cucumber

    Sunday, September 15, 2019

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    It’s the 21st of the month which means one thing for me…..the culmination of hours of plotting, cooking, testing (and, keeping it real here people… sometimes cursing) to come up with a recipe for the latest Recipe Redux challenge.

    This month’s challenge: Bars & Bites for Brown Bags. To quote directly: ” Small squares or round bites can pack nutrition into a sweet or savory taste”.

    As a girl with a wicked sweet tooth, my mind immediately wandered to dates, nuts, chocolate and coconut. So many yummy and sweet things to consider. Then, it dawns on me…I am trying to reduce the amount of sugar I eat. Yes boys and girls, even if the sugar is natural and comes from things like dried figs, raisins and dates it still counts as sugar. Damn! What to do with the savory option…..

    Then the a-ha moment! To borrow an idea from my friend Brandie over at Spoon and Saucer, I decided on Onigiri (Japanese rice balls), which are pretty common in Japanese bentos (boxed lunches) and she had featured in one of her segments on a local morning show.

    Ok, let’s talk delectable, portable lunch. So I took a little liberty with the ingredients….as I am wont to do. As I started making the recipe, I began to slowly uncover all of the magical potential and things to love about this idea of a rice ball. First, the possibilities are endless! Think about it….there are so many variations and ingredients (sweet and savory). Pickled veggies, chopped veggies, herbs, sesame seeds, coconut, nuts, dried fruit. While my take was perhaps a bit nontraditional, the ingredients were pretty classic. I was going for a sort of bagel and lox idea (sans the cream cheese). Let me just say….SO YUMMY!!! I could probably eat Onigiri every day and be a very happy girl. It really is the perfect combination of filling fiber and ready to use energy from the rice, satisfying richness from the smoked salmon, and a burst of bright and fresh from the dill, cucumber and green onion.

    Japanese Rice Balls Collage_Kindred-Kitchen

    I’m pretty sure I nailed the spirit of this challenge…

    A couple of pointers on this one. First, you want to be sure to use short grain rice (I used brown for the additional fiber, minimal refinement…blah…blah…blah… You know, all of the reason you should eat brown rice). If short grain white rice (or sushi rice) is all you can find, use it. The point is you have to use a really starchy rice to ensure it’s sticky enough to mold into a ball that will hold its shape.

    Second, dice the add-in ingredients pretty small. While I probably went a little to chunky with mine, they still worked just fine, but the rice ball would probably stick together even better if the add-ins were closer to minced.

    Third, when you are forming the rice balls, use a sheet of plastic wrap. This comes in handy when you are pressing the rice mixture into the ball shape.

    Lastly, if you don’t have white pepper in you pantry, you need it. Truly you do. White pepper is often chosen for aesthetic reasons since it doesn’t create those distinctive black flecks that come with using ground black pepper. It also has a more mild pepper taste that isn’t quite as front-and-center as black pepper, so it’s particularly well suited to a dish like this, since it’s served chilled or at room temperature.

    Japanese Rice Balls with Smoked Salmon dill and cucumber_Kindred-Kitchen_7_edited

    Now it’s your turn. Once you’ve made this one, I’m going out on a limb to say that Onigiri might just be your new healthy food obsession.

    Recipe Redux: Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) With Smoked Salmon, Dill & Cucumber

    servings: makes 7-8 Onigiri | time: about 1.5 hours including cooling time

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    1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice

    3 cups water

    1 tsp. salt

    4 ounce package smoked salmon

    1/2 cup peeled and diced cucumber

    2 TBSP. fresh chopped dill

    1 scallion (green onion), chopped

    Juice of 1/2 a large lemon

    Salt and white pepper to taste


    1. Rinse the rice and place in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Test for doneness. Allow to cool completely

    2. Place the cooled rice and all of the other ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine well. Taste for seasoning and add salt and white pepper as needed

    3. Tear a square of plastic wrap and place on a flat surface. Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop a portion of the rice and place in the center of the plastic wrap

    4. Starting with the long side of the wrap, fold over the rice. Fold the second side over and pick the rice ball up with each end of the plastic wrap

    5. Take the rice ball into the palm of your hand and using some pressure, press until it forms a uniform ball shape. Twist the ends of the wrap, fold underneath the rice ball and place in a dish and continue making the rest of the rice balls

    6. Refrigerate and eat within 2 days

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    22 responses to “Recipe Redux: Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) With Smoked Salmon, Dill & Cucumber”

    1. Sarah Grace says:

      Mmm, have never made something like this before but looks delicious, as I love lox and cream cheese! Love how you took this theme in a savory direction instead of sweet!
      xoxo Sarah Grace, Fresh Fit N Healthy.

    2. jill conyers says:

      Fabulous take on this month’s theme. Your recipe reminds me of when my now 17 year old son loved to eat rice balls when he was a toddler.

    3. Marisa Moore says:

      Thanks for sharing this recipe! I love salmon sushi and this looks like a much easier way to get the same flavors in my lunch box. Can’t wait to try it!

    4. This is creative!!!!! I’m loving this savory option! May try making the rice with some light canned coconut milk!

    5. This is absolutely gorgeous, I have never seen anything like it. Such a classic flavour combo presented so beautifully. I love this!

    6. I love that you went for something less obvious for this challenge! These look so tasty and I bet they’d make a great lunch!

    7. Ingenius! As you pointed out, there are so many sweet and savory applications for this. Perhaps a version with sweet sticky rice and mango. Thanks for the inspiration!

    8. Farrah says:

      I love, love, love onigiri. πŸ˜€ I’ve been too lazy to make it lately, but this just might be the motivation I need to make a batch. They’re so awesome as on-the-go snacks! :]

    9. I love smoked salmon, and these seem super easy to make! Such a great idea for this challenge πŸ™‚

    10. Have never tried Onigiri before but I LOVE Asian food so this is a must-try for sure! Very creative πŸ™‚

    11. Ohhh Nancy! You win win WIN the ReDux prize for this month’s theme (well, I know there’s not really a prize but I pretending like there is.) I cannot wait to make these – a great counter balance to all the delish sweet recipes this month πŸ™‚

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