Onigiri — rice balls with a savory surprise — inside are a popular Japanese snack. These onigiri contain umeboshi, a sour-salty pickled plum, but feel free to experiment with different savory fillings. Use your hands or swirl the seasoned rice in a bowl to form the rice balls.

Frequently asked questions
What are umeboshi?
Umeboshi are Japanese pickled salted plums. They lend a salty, sour flavor to dishes, and are one of the most common fillings for onigiri. Look for them in Asian grocery stores.

What kind of rice should I use? 
For onigiri, look for a short-grain rice, such as Koshihikari. These grains are almost round in shape and have a higher amount of amylopectin starch, making them sticky and soft when cooked, which helps the onigi to hold their shape. Short-grain rice is also often used for making sushi. 

What is the best way to cook rice?
The hands-off convenience of using a rice cooker makes the method rank among our favorite cooking approaches.  (The water-to-rice ratios for rice cookers vary, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific rice cooker.) In the recipe below, we provide instructions for cooking rice on the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, which will also yield tender, sticky grains.

Furikake Is Rice's Best Friend
Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen
While our testers loved the salty, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor umeboshi provides here, there are so many different fillings to try. Seared spam or sausage, other pickled things, and even crab salad are just a few options.

Wet your hands before shaping the onigiri to help prevent the rice from sticking to them. 

Make ahead
Onigiri can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator.
3 cups uncooked Japanese short-grain white rice (such as Koshihikari) 

3 cups water

1 tablespoon furikake, divided

6 pitted and quartered umeboshi (pickled plums), divided

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Place rice in a large bowl; add cold water to cover. Wash rice, agitating the grains using your hand, 10 to 15 seconds. Drain and repeat 4 to 5 times until water is mostly clear. Drain well; rinse in a fine wire-mesh strainer, 10 to 15 seconds. Drain completely. Combine rice and 3 cups water in a 4-quart saucepan; let rice soak, uncovered, at room temperature until grains are plump and opaque, about 30 minutes.

Bring rice and soaking water to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high. Cover with a tight-fitting lid; reduce heat to low, and cook, undisturbed, 13 minutes. Remove from heat; let rice steam, covered, 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff rice with a fork.
Stir together 1 cup warm cooked rice and 1/2 teaspoon furikake in a small bowl using a fork. Shape seasoned rice into a lightly packed ball using dampened hands. (Alternatively, swirl bowl in a circular motion on a flat surface until rice forms a loose ball.) Press four umeboshi pieces into rice ball, and cover with rice. Using your hands, gently shape rice ball to form a 2-inch-tall rounded pyramid shape. Repeat with remaining 5 cups cooked rice, remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons furikake, and remaining umeboshi pieces. Serve at room temperature.

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