Onigiri (お握り or 御握り; おにぎり), also known as omusubi (お結び; おむすび) or rice ball, is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, katsuobushi, kombu, tarako, or any other salty or sour ingredient as a natural preservative. Because of the popularity of onigiri in Japan, most convenience stores there stock onigiri with various fillings and flavors. There are even specialized shops whose only products are onigiri for take out.
Despite common misconceptions, Onigiri is not a form of sushi. Onigiri is made with plain rice (sometimes lightly salted), while sushi is made of rice with vinegar, sugar and salt. Onigiri makes rice portable and easy to eat as well as preserving it, while sushi originated as a way of preserving fish.
Onigiri are also found in many convenience stores in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea. In Korean language, it is called "jumeok bap" (Hangeul: 주먹밥) or "samgak gimbap" (Hangeul: 삼각김밥), literally "fist-rice" or "triangle-seaweed-rice," respectively.
In Lady Murasaki's 11th-century diary Murasaki Shikibu Nikki, she writes of people eating rice balls. At that time, onigiri were called tonjiki and often consumed at outdoor picnic lunches. Other writings, dating back as far as the seventeenth century, state that many samurai stored rice balls wrapped in bamboo leaves as a quick lunchtime meal during war, but the origins of onigiri are much earlier even than Lady Murasaki. Before the use of chopsticks became widespread, in the Nara period, rice was often rolled into a small ball so that it could be easily picked up. In the Heian period, rice was also made into small rectangular shapes known as tonjiki so that they could be piled onto a plate and easily eaten.
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