How better to celebrate spring than a picnic with the family under the cherry trees? Along with my husband and son, a few weeks ago I enjoyed a sunny afternoon and delicate cherry blossoms in the Washington Park Arboretum. Lots of other families were doing the same and taking photos of their loved ones smiling against a backdrop of pink or white cherry petals.
We brought the traditional snack for cherry blossom viewing: onigiri. It’s a very easy to-go recipe, the Asian equivalent of a sandwich. You cook sushi rice, put a bit of filling in the middle of a ball of rice, wrap the rice in sturdy plastic wrap and form it into a triangle. If you don’t want try to make a triangle, a round ball will do, they sometimes eat it that way in Japan, too. The rice ball can be stored and transported in the plastic wrap until snack time.
Then you remove the plastic and wrap the onigiri in a strip of nori to give it a non-sticky handle. Waiting until snack time keeps the nori crisp, otherwise it would get soggy. We still got a little sticky during the wrapping process, so I’m glad we packed a washcloth, too.
The filling can be made vegetarian or with fish or meat, or you could have just plain rice balls with no filling. We used a little wild salmon mixed with mayonnaise. A bit of salty umeboshi plum is a traditional choice. You could really use anything you want, including lots of vegetarian choices like grilled onion or mushroom or baked tofu.
Wrapping the onigiri with nori:
And the result:
I don’t think I could do better than Jenny of Asian Lifestyle Design in explaining how to make an onigiri so here’s a link to her onigiri post and how-to video. We used Lundberg Organic Sweet Brown Rice which is available through Amazon in organic or eco-farmed varieties. White sushi (Japonica) rice is more traditional for Asian recipes like sushi and onigiri. But I prefer a whole grain, so I use brown sweet (sticky) rice which sticks together better than other brown rice. Sticking together is essential for making rice balls!
Cherry blossom viewing wouldn’t be complete without a little haiku, and my husband and son and I came up with a few. Traditional thoughts about the beauty of the cherry blossoms and their brevity, the rain of falling petals both beautiful and a harbinger of death. Hug your loved ones close, you never know how long you have together.