Rice balls are must have for lunch box. My mother told me that it is the best since it doesn't get spoiled even it's warm outside. By saying that, she avoided making sandwiches. I envied my friends who brought sandwiches for school trips, but I enjoyed my rice balls anyway.
There are lots of variations. One is made of white rice and there is something in the center. I think this is most traditional. The inside could be a pickled plum, salted salmon, fish eggs, seaweed, etc. The other kind is made of mixed rice. White rice is mixed with Furikake, or scrambled eggs, seaweed, sesame seeds, dried shiso leaves, etc.
The latter one has same taste anywhere you eat, but the white rice one is plain until you get a bite of inside. It is fun not knowing what is inside and the plain part is a good complement to meat and vegetables in a Bento box.
My rice ball was always the white rice ball with Nori wrapped around and the center was pickled plum. That was my favorite. I always liked something sour.
However, my husband thinks the white rice ball is boring until you get to its core. So I started to make rice balls with mixed rice after I got married.
These rice balls are really refreshing for summer lunch. Pickled ginger is the only thing that provides saltiness (except for a little salt). Shiso gives very nice aroma to this simple mixture.
Summer Rice Balls ( 6 mini rice balls)
* Ingredients *
2 cups of cooked white short grain rice
3 large leaves of green shiso
3 large leaves of red shiso
3 table spoons of pickled ginger
< 1 > Put rice in a large bowl and let it cool down a little bit so the heat wouldn't wilt shiso.
< 2 > Cut shiso leaves and ginger to long strips and mix with the rice.
< 3 > Wash the hands well. Make them moist and sprinkle palms with a little salt. Put the rice on the palm and make rice balls. Make sure the salt gets around evenly around the rice balls.
If you bend your fingers from the base and make edge with your knuckles, you can shape rice balls to triangles. My mother never did this. Hers was always a circle. But I somehow can't make it like that. So my rice balls are more like rice triangles that appears in cartoon. I also like mini sized ones. It looks small, but it is packed with lots of rice, so it is a good prevention for not eating too much of carbohydrate.
Making rice balls with saran wrap became very popular as I grew up. It prevents hands getting dirty and more sanitary. You can also wrap rice balls with the saran wrap as you finish them.
But traditionally, they are made with bare hands that are sprinkled with a pinch of salt.
After having lunch with my daughter, I asked if it will be nice to put tuna or something in these rice balls. She said that it is refreshing as is. I agreed.