Today, we are making a staple Japanese dish that holds a significant role in everyday Japanese cuisine, you can even find them in convenience stores when you're in Japan! No, it's not sushi. Yes, they are both made with short-grain rice but the key difference is that onigiri is made with plain steamed rice, while sushi is made of steamed rice seasoned with salt, vinegar and sugar. These cute looking vegan onigiri rice balls are one of the most versatile dishes that you can custom based on your preference. Typically, they are filled with classic Japanese ingredients such as umeboshi plum, salted salmon or tuna, and kombu seaweed. We made a plant-based version with delicious fillings of juicy shiitake mushrooms and sesame flavoured tofu. To complete the dish, we served these vegan onigiri rice balls with one of our favourite Dibble Mayo mix recipes, the classic twist of Dibble Wasabi Mayo. Itadakimasu!
In a large bowl, gently wash the rice for about 4-6 times until the water is fairly clear. Discard the water in every wash.
Let the rice soak in water for 30 minutes. Transfer the rice into a sieve and sit for 15 minutes.
Cook rice in a rice cooker or pot for 15 minutes or until rice becomes fluffy.
Transfer to cooked rice to a large bowl and fluff the rice with a wooden spoon. Let rice cool down enough to handle with your hands. However, do not let the rice cool down completely.
In a medium pan over medium-high heat, cook the ginger and garlic in the vegetable oil until aromatic.
Add the mushrooms and stir together for 3 minutes.
Add soy sauce, scallions, pickled ginger, mirin, sesame oil and brown sugar and cook together for 5 minutes.
The first step is to press the tofu. You can do this with a tofu presser, or simply you can place the block of tofu on a plate, place kitchen paper towels on the top and bottom to absorb the moisture, and then add something heavy on the top such as a chopping board, books, or more plates. Leave this process for at least 30 minutes (you can also do it overnight). The longer you do it, the firmer the tofu will be.
Once tofu is pressed, cut into cubes.
In a medium pan over medium-high heat, heat vegetable oil and cook the tofu cubes.
Once the tofu starts to brown, add soy sauce, mirin and tahini. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add scallions, white sesame seeds, nori seaweed and shichimi togarashi. Mix thoroughly for 1 minute.
In a small bowl, mix together Dibble Mayo, wasabi paste, soy sauce, sesame oil and black pepper until thoroughly combined.
Set aside in a dipping bowl.
Prepare a bowl of water and a bowl of salt. With clean hands, wet both of your hands in the bowl of water to prevent the rice from sticking.
Then, rub some salt on your palms. This will help season the rice.
Scoop a handful of warm rice into one hand. Create a small indentation in the center of the rice.
Put one kind of filling inside, about 1-2 tsp. Then mold the rice with your hands around the well to cover the filling completely. Press the rice around the filling to create a triangle shape. Add a strip of nori seaweed to finish.
Repeat this process for each of the filling, you can add black sesame seeds to the remaining of the rice to create a different version for the second filling.