Onigiri Senbei and Types of Onigiri Rice Balls
“Onigiri (おにぎり)” is a Japanese comfort food made by forming a handful of steamed plain rice usually into a ball or triangle shape with hands, and then covering the rice with a dried sheet of seaweed laver “Nori (海苔)” (Amazon.com).
Types of Onigiri
Although Onigiri is known as Onigiri rice balls in English-speaking countries, the definition on its shapes doesn’t exist, so it is okay to make any shape of Onigiri.
Nevertheless, the Onigiri made by us Japanese is roughly divided into 3 types. One is ball-shaped and entirely covered with Nori seaweed like the above photo.
Another has a triangle shape and is partly covered with Nori seaweed like the above.
Yaki Onigiri (焼きおにぎり : Grilled Onigiri)
The last is Yaki Onigiri, or grilled Onigiri.
As for the making method, after we form a handful of plain white rice into a ball or triangle shape, the rice is typically seasoned with soy sauce or miso soybean paste and grilled.
Hence, for Yaki Onigiri, usually Nori seaweed isn’t used.
Masuya Onigiri Senbei
When it comes to Onigiri, there is a famous Japanese rice cracker associated with the rice ball, which I have now for this blog article.
The name of the rice snack is “Onigiri Senbei (おにぎりせんべい)”, which is produced and sold by “Masuya (マスヤ)”, a Japanese confectionery company whose main office is located in Ise, Mie Prefecture.
As you can see from the above photo, Onigiri Senbei literally has an Onigiri-like triangle shape
Actually, Masuya Onigiri Senbei isn’t well-known to those who live in eastern Japan. In contrast, for the people who live in western parts of Japan, Onigiri Senbei is a standard rice snack.
By the way, have you ever heard of “Senbei (せんべい)”? Senbei is one of the Japan’s 3 major traditional rice crackers. It is made of non-glutinous rice, the staple food of the Japanese.
Generally, traditional Senbei rice crackers have a thick round shape like the above and are often flavored with soy sauce or salt. In modern times, there exist a wide variety of Senbei, like this Onigiri Senbei.
The Features of Masuya Onigiri Senbei
Traditional Senbei rice crackers are made by baking rice dough without using oil, so they have a crunchy texture, while Masuya Onigiri Senbei is a little moist and not so crunchy.
Like traditional Senbei, Onigiri Senbei is flavored mainly with soy sauce, but has a subtle sweetness. The black things pasted on its surface are thin short strips of Nori seaweed.
Unlike traditional Senbei rice crackers, Masuya Onigiri Senbei is neither so hard nor tough. Besides, it has a mild flavor compared to traditional Senbei. Hence, I think the modern Senbei snack can be a nice treat for kids.
If you have a chance to visit western parts of Japan, Masuya Onigiri Senbei is a snack worth a try. It is also recommended as a souvenir.
The Ingredients of Masuya Onigiri Senbei
Finally, according to the description on the back of the bag, the main ingredients of Masuya Onigiri Senbei are non-glutinous Uruchi rice, vegetable oil, soy sauce, sugar, dextrin, Nori seaweed, powdered egg yolk, and pork extract.
(Reference page : Wikipedia おにぎりせんべい )