Since I've been on a such a nostalgic emotional trip back to my days in Japan, I was more than happy to explore the aisles of a new Japanese supermarket that opened up in Sukhumvit 49 near Villa and Samitivej Hospital, UFM Fuji Super! It's tiny but provides more than the essentials for those looking for a substitute for an actual Japanese grocers. Just a few steps in (through the wrong door... I walked in through the exit first...) and BAM! Onigiri (rice balls) and bento boxes!! I start raiding the defenseless onigiri and hoard them in my dinky basket. What I am astonished by is the price range. You can get onigiri here for 30 baht!! It's like the convenience stores in Tokyo!! or the 99Yen shop!! Usually, sticking anything under the label of "Japanese" food sends the price through the stratosphere. Admittedly, you can get a lunch box of rice and various Thai toppings from the next counter for the same price, but STILL! I could never bring myself to buy 100 baht onigiri from the high end gourmet markets in town, so this made me very happy.
This particular one looked special. Most of the onigiri have the ingenious Japanese packaging that keeps the seaweed separate so it remains crisp up until you eat it. This one has the nice translucent paper wrapping. I dropped by after work so it was getting late. The shelves of ready to eat food had clearly been ravaged by earlier hungry hordes. This is an onigiri with raw tuna in soy sauce. 50 baht, kinda pricey, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway.
I've always thought that onigiri are adorable. Even as a child playing with miniature food from my Sylvania collection, before I knew what an onigiri was, I would think these tiny white lumps with the black panels look so cute! Here the seaweed has been in contact with the rice so instead of being crisp, it is very soft and won't fight you when you try to bite through it. I think your roasted seaweed should either be fresh and crisp or delicate and soft, when it is in between, it will fight you to the death.
If you are looking for crazy hyper intense flavours then you are in the wrong place. The humble onigiri provides a comforting full bite of wholesome clean flavours. The rice, the hint of salt, the umami of the seaweed and the burst of flavour from whatever is encased in the soft fluffy white grains. The piece of tuna wasn't particularly big or small, but felt like it was just the right size for the onigiri. Like an intrepid explorer working your way through the mysterious vast unknown, you take a bite after bite of your onigiri, wondering if your teeth will strike the coveted cache of taste bud tingling filling. Onigiri excavation adventure! Fun, cute, delicious and filling! Also cheap and very portable! Onigiri for everybody!!