Chicken Rice Balls (a.k.a. onigiri) make a delicious snack, tasty lunch, or supremely easy dinner—just add a salad or some roasted or grilled vegetables. Chicken is cooked in a simple marinade before being mixed with short grain rice and pressed into balls. The result is much more flavor-wise than the sum of its parts, and much easier work-wise than people would guess.
Note that if you have culinarily curious kids, this is a particularly fun dish to make together!
- 1 cup sushi rice or other short grain or even medium grain rice
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 pound chicken thigh meat or ground dark chicken meat
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 Tablespoons sake
- 2 Tablespoons mirin
- 2 sheets roasted seasoned seaweed (optional
- Rinse the rice in cool water until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a rice cooker or pot with 1 1/2 cups water and the salt, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Take off the heat and let sit, still covered, 5 minutes. Uncover, stir, and let cool. To speed up the cooling, spread the rice on a baking sheet or tray.
- While the rice cooks, chop the chicken thighs if using them instead of ground meat—really go to town, the smaller the pieces the better they integrate with the rice in a yummy way. Put the chicken, soy sauce, sake, and mirin in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is almost completely absorbed about 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. as with the rice, you can speed the cooling by spreading the chicken on a baking sheet or tray in a thin layer.
- Combine the rice and chicken mixture thoroughly. It needs to be at room temperature, if it is too warm the balls will not hold together. If using the seaweed, crumble it into the mixture and mix to combine it evenly with the rice and chicken.
- Rinse your hands and shake them off so they are just damp. Grab a small handful of the chicken-rice mixture and press really hard into a ball or patty. Set on a plate and repeat. You'll need to rinse and re-wet your hands between each one so the mixture doesn't start to stick to your hands. Cover the chicken rice balls and let them sit a bit before eating, or chill them and eat them later.