Rachel showing me her onigiri rice ball

Ladies’ Onigiri Rice Ball & Sake Night Overtakes Drinking Craft Cocktails at Trendy Bar

September 26, 2012 | 2 Comments.

When people ask me about my favorite places to eat in Tokyo, I unabashedly catapult 7-11 into my top 3.  Before you shun me, let me point out: The 7-11’s in Japan aren’t solely your Big Freeze Slush and corn dog type of establishments.

They are a convenient and cost efficient spot where you can score some good-looking green salads, soba noodles, and my favorite, onigiri rice balls.  The production crew and I consumed a plethora of them throughout our Japan pilot trip,oftentimes for breakfast and we would sometimes make a repeat visit late at night.

Onigiri rice balls are generally made from white rice formed into either triangular or oval shapes.  They are sometimes wrapped in seaweed and commonly filled with pickled vegetables, salmon, and other type of fish.

In addition to scouring for them at 7-11 for 2-3 bucks, you can also go slightly more up-market and find them in specialty shops dedicated to only selling onigiris.

This onigiri specialty shop is one of my favorites and conveniently located right outside the Ebisu subway station
Each of these plump rice balls go for a modest $2.50

To keep fueling my hankering for these rice balls in Seattle, I make a pit stop to the famous Kappabashi kitchen district before leaving Tokyo to select an onigiri mold from the 20 or so wall full of options.  I have been a rice ball making machine ever since.

These balls are so easy to make that even little kids partake in rice ball making in Japan.  Adults generally “free ball” it (aka – use no mold), while parents start off my teaching their offspring to make onigiris via a mold.  I suppose it is like onigiri training wheels for kids.

After using this nifty rice mold, you can close it up and take it with you to work as a rice ball lunch carrier

To pay homage to the mighty rice ball, we had an onigiri-making and sake-drinking filled ladies’ night.  We all agreed hanging out in the comforts of a home was the perfect Tuesday night hang out, even superseding our love of heading to a trendy drinking hole for a craft cocktail and fancy olives.

By the way, did you know Sushi Kappo Tamura is licensed to sell sake?  If you have ever feasted at the Eastlake sushi restaurant, you know they have got a stellar selection.  Passionate about his sake, co-owner Steve Tamura is even heading to Japan this winter to take a masterclass.

Tamura hooked me up with an Omachi Namazake from the Nakao Brewery.  The brewery has been in existence since 1871.  The limited edition sake is famously known for being made with apple yeast.  Tamura assures me it is always a hit with the ladies.  The empty bottle shows he was right.

Here are some pictures from last night’s ladies’ onigiri night, which was my friend Rachel’s idea.  She lived in Japan for a year, where she also got the onigiri itch.

We started with the molds




Kombu and spicy shrimp onigiri: We started getting bold and ditching the molds for some free ballin' like the big kids


Move over Hello Kitty. We have got a new cat in town. My friend Molly adorns her kitty rice ball with green onion eyes, kombu (kelp) whiskers, seaweed ears, and a sliver of chopped shrimp for a nose. I think this bad boy is filled with spicy shrimp.


Rachel's pretty shiso-wrapped onigiri

If you like what you are reading, follow me on Facebook and @rollwithjen on Twitter.  For tips on my favorite places to eat in town, download my free iPhone app.


2 Responses to “Ladies’ Onigiri Rice Ball & Sake Night Overtakes Drinking Craft Cocktails at Trendy Bar”

  1. I cannot agree with you more, Chris and I always tell people our favorite quick bite is Lawson’s (another convenient store chain in Japan). We stock up on onigini; you have to know the color-codes, i.e. purple is octopus — not my favorite. You have inspired me.

    • Roll with Jen

      Rhonda – Ah, good ol’ Lawson’s. It took me a while to figure out the color codes so for a while, it was like the cracker jack surprise. I enjoyed all of the varieties, with exception to a baby smelt filling.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>