Oct 22, 2013

Japanese Onigiri Two Ways - Cream Cheese Mentaiko and Stir Fry Shirasu

Onigiri means rice balls, usually wrapped with a piece of nori, or dried seaweed. There are a wide variety of fillings that can be used with onigiri. The most simple and traditional options including umeboshi (picked plum) and salted salmon. However, a fancier or even fusion style onigiri is on the rise. Don't be surprised if you find snapper or even Mexican carnitas wrapped in steamed white rice.

As for my latest onigiri experiment searching for new flavors, here's two combinations that I enjoy the most, cream cheese mentaiko and stir fry shirasu -

Ingredients (for 8 onigiri)?

  • 2 mentaiko roes
  • Some steamed Japanese white rice
  • 8 nori (rectangular shaped dried seaweed)
  • Some sea salt
  • Some cream cheese
  • Some stir fry shirasu
*This is a very old recipe for stir fry shirasu, but for sure the flavor stands even years after!


Carefully remove the membrane from the mentaiko. I simply cut a small opening towards the end and squeeze out the fish roe inside.

Mix the fish roe with some room temperature cream cheese, about 2 tablespoons. Use more if a creamier taste is desired.

To recap the recipe for stir fry shirasu, simply peel and finely chop some garlic cloves, finely chop a few red chilies and about one stalk of scallion. Drizzle just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add in the garlic, chilies, scallion, and cook till the aroma comes out.

Add in one small pack of shirasu and sprinkle with some salt to adjust the taste. Make sure to avoid using shirasu that has been dried completely otherwise the texture will be too tough for onigiri. The less dried and cooked version is white, instead of the dark grayish dried fish. However, when cooking this dish, make sure to sear the shirasu till almost dried out. The sides should appear slightly golden colored. That way the aroma gets locked inside the fish.

Cook the white rice as usual, use about 2 cups. You can even soak the rice for 15 minutes before cooking in the rice cooker in order to create an even sticker texture for onigiri. Wait till the rice cools down to the point where you can handle by hand.

Take half of the rice and mix in the stir fry shirasu. Prepare a small bowl of salt water, make sure to use the already boiled water. Slightly wet both hands with salt water, which will help to avoid having rice sticking on hands. Form the shirasu rice mixture into small balls and wrap each one with one piece of nori.

Try to serve the onigiri ASAP, otherwise the nori will absorb the moisture from the rice. It'll lose the crunchiness and begin to "wilt" like the one below -

To make the cream cheese mentaiko onigiri, take about half amount of rice for the onirigi in one hand, scoop some cream cheese mentaiko into the center, and take some more rice to cover the filling. Form the rice into triangle shaped onigiri, this might take some practice.

Wrap the onirigi with nori. I also added a small spoonful of the mentaiko mixture on top, looks more appetizing that way (or just my other excuse to have even more cream cheese mentaiko in one onigiri).

You can pack the onigiri inside lunch boxes. In fact, onigiri is one of the most popular lunch box items in Japan! Just make sure to pack the nori separately so everything stays nice and fresh.

Other recent rice recipes:


  1. I have tried stir-frying shirasu with egg which became filling for my sushi! It's good! Love your onigiri with creative flavors!

    1. Thank you! Next time I wanna try salmon with onigiri!