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Onigirazu: The Cooking Dad Manga Invention

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Onigirazu is a Japanese dish made from rice and seaweed, wrapped in nori (dried seaweed).

It is typically filled with sushi fillings such as tuna, salmon, cucumber, and avocado, but also ham, cheese, and spam can be used.

Onigirazu is a popular lunchtime food in Japan, as it is easy to make and can be eaten on the go.

What is onigirazu

Rice is pressed flat on top of a large sheet of nori, then fillings are added to the top of the rice disc with some more rice on top and then edges are folded over to create a wrap.

The assembled onigirazu is wrapped in plastic wrap and then cut it in half like a sandwich.

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What does “onigirazu” mean?

The word onigirazu comes from three words in Japanese: onigiri, meaning the rice ball, ra, probably referring to the use as “and the like”, of a sort of onigiri, and zu, used to indicate that it shouldn’t be used as a verb but rather a continuous state of being.

Others say it means “not to compress or mold,” referring to the ease of which this onigiri alternative is to put together.

What does onigirazu taste like?

Onigirazu tastes like a cross between sushi and a rice ball. The rice is usually seasoned with vinegar, salt, and sugar, and the seaweed gives it a slightly salty flavor.

A lot of “unconventional” fillings are used because it’s more like a sandwich, so you’ll find cheese, all kinds of meat, and even spam in there.

It does have quite a bit of nori wrapped around it so it does have quite a bite and crunch and saltiness when you bite into it.

How to eat onigirazu

You eat onigirazu with your hands, as it is easy to eat on the go and it’s more of a sandwich than sushi.

Many specialty restaurants also offer sushi sandwiches for dine-in or take-out.

The sushi sandwich is a popular hit on social media platforms like Instagram because it’s an aesthetically attractive dish.

Plus, it’s kind of easy to make. You can just pile on all your favorite ingredients and toppings to create your own unique Instagrammable lunch, snack, or dinner!

This hybrid sandwich is a great option for fish and meat-eaters, as well as vegetarians and vegans alike because it’s easy to customize each sandwich to suit all individual food preferences.

Onigirazu vs sushi sandwich

hand holding box of 4 onigirazu sushi sandwich halves

The sushi sandwich is a dish initially inspired by onigirazu from Japan. It looks like a Western-style sandwich, but it’s made of rice and seaweed and packed full of delicious seafood, meat, or vegetarian ingredients.

If you don’t like raw fish, then this dish is for you. It can taste like sushi rolls, but you can substitute ingredients and forget all about raw fish!

The sushi sandwich is the perfect food for those who are bored of having the same old for lunch and want to switch things up.

For this sandwich, you can use many of the same ingredients you’d use to make traditional seafood or vegan sushi rolls like these we made here.

It’s easy to pack up for lunch since it’s compact like a bread sandwich. Plus, it can be prepared as part of meal prep for the next day, as it keeps its freshness for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

So you might’ve heard of sushi sandwiches being called “onigirazu”, but did you know it’s actually not the same thing and incorrect to call them one and the same?

The sushi sandwiches you’ll find for sale at grocery sushi fridges like the ones at Whole Foods aren’t quite like the Japanese versions.

There’s a distinction between onigirazu and a sushi sandwich. The former is made using plain white rice, while the latter is a seasoned dish made with vinegar-soaked rice.

“Sushi sandwich” is the term used for Western and American styles of this dish.

These sandwiches are great options for dieters and are considered low-calorie foods, as, on average, 1 serving of vegan sushi sandwich contains about 150 calories while those with ingredients such as salmon contain about 250 calories per serving.

Also read: these healthy brown rice sushi recipes will work for sandwiches too

person making onigirazu sushi sandwich

What’s the origin of onigirazu?

Onigirazu was invented not by a chef, but by the author Tochi Ueyama of the manga books Cooking Papa and appeared for the first time in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1991 the term onigirazu was used.

It wasn’t meant to be a recipe but rather the simple dish even the working dad could make, unlike like the hard to mold onigiri, but was picked up by the recipe site cookpad.com, and the rest is history.

Onigirazu is Japanese in a sense, but not traditional.

What’s the difference between onigirazu and musubi or onigiri?

The main difference is that onigirazu is not compressed or molded, while onigiri is. Both are made with sushi rice, which is stickier than regular rice, making it easier to mold and stick to the other ingredients, but onigirazu is smushed together while onigiri and musubi are molded by hand.

Onigirazu is more like a sandwich and can be filled with all sorts of ingredients just like any sandwich.

Read about the complete differences between onigirazu and onigiri here

Onigirazu ingredients

Onigirazu is made of Japanese sushi rice, a sheet of nori, and the fillings of your choice.

Where to eat onigirazu?

You can find onigirazu pre-made in many places in Japan, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and bento shops.

Many Japanese people also make onigirazu at home as it is easy to make and can be a quick meal or snack.

Is onigirazu healthy?

Yes, onigirazu can be a healthy option as it is made with rice and seaweed, which are both healthy ingredients.

You can also load it up with vegetables and other healthy fillings to make it an even healthier meal.

Onigirazu is a great way to use up all the bits in the refrigerator.

Conclusion

As you can see, onigirazu is a new invention sprung from a lot of imagination and fusion between Western sandwiches and traditional cooking and the world is richer for it.

Now that you’ve read about all the possible ways to make a sushi sandwich, it’s time to get cooking and make your own delicious version in the comfort of your home with the kitchen tools you already own!

Also read: Sushi sandwich, how to make it at home

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.