Japan's rice ball takes a cue from the sandwich

Japan's rice ball takes a cue from the sandwich
Onigirazu are delicious, simple to prepare and easy to eat.
PHOTO: Nikkei Asian Review

TOKYO - Companies and individuals are not the only ones facing globalisation. Japan's humble onigiri, or rice ball, has met its Western counterpart, the sandwich, and transformed itself into a snack for the 21st century.

The onigirazu, as the hybrid dish is called, looks like a sandwich at first glance, but instead of bread, the filling is wrapped in the rice and seaweed typical of an onigiri. The core concept of the onigirazu remains the same as that of its two "parents" - to provide a delicious, easy-to-make and easy-to-eat meal or snack.

Its unusual appearance may be one reason the onigirazu is attracting increasing numbers of hungry Japanese. It certainly is for Satomi Yao, a PR business consultant. "The colors whet the appetite," she said. "They look fun, and you know immediately what's in them." She said she makes onigirazu at least once a month when she has guests over.

Or perhaps it is the hectic pace of today's Japanese society that has helped this new trend catch on. More women in Japan are joining the workforce, but preparing food remains largely a woman's responsibility. For these busy wives and mothers, onigirazu is something of a hero.

"Onigirazu isn't a side dish, it's a complete meal in itself, containing vegetables, carbohydrates and protein," said Tomoe Matsushima, one such onigirazu fan. "I don't have to worry about preparing four different things for my children's lunch box, wondering which combination would look better and be healthier." She said she makes them for her two sons once a week.

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