Japan – Nigirimeshi

by Zayna Khan

This is the traditional rice dish of Japan which is simply known as rice balls. This dish has many other names according to the filling. This is actually a rice ball that can be shaped into a circle and triangle. Some fish, vegetables, chicken, or meat can be filled inside the rice and covered with Nori seaweed. This dish can be made sweet by adding Ume fruit in rice balls. The choice is yours to make it a traditional dish by adding salted salmon.

This dish has many varieties and names. The shape of the rice ball can also be changed and then we can add any filling into it that compliments the rice. Rice is must be glutinous which can easily stick to each other and maintain the shape. It is a tradition to serve these rice balls with Nori seaweed. We can either chop and serve it on the top or just simply cover the rice balls into this Nori seaweed sheet.

There are following names of the same dish with some variations :

  • NIGIRIZUSHI (Sushi type of nigirimeshi )


There are different ingredients used in making this simple but with a lot of varieties in this dish. This dish can be changed from other varieties by adding additional filling ingredients that are going to be discussed below :

Pickled Ume

It is also known as Umeboshi because it is actually a dried pickled version of ume fruit. It is dipped into brine saltwater then after 10 to 15 days used as a pickled form of ume fruit. It is also known as ” SALTED JAPANESE FRUIT’

UMEZUKE, UMEBOSHI, UME FRUIT, SALTED JAPANESE FRUIT are the different names of the same fruit used in filling of the nigirimeshi.

This ingredients is the name ingredient of filling in these rice balls as the main but variant of the nigirimeshi.


Kombu is the edible brown algae seaweed which is used in making filling of the rice balls. This special ingredient is very rare in cooking but used in this dish. It is also known as ‘‘DASIMA

There are many versions of kombu like it can be dried and pickled. It is very popular in Japanese cuisine in making soups, dashi stock, etc. Kombu-cha is a very famous tea cooked in Japan.


Katsuobushi is a dried kelp, fermented skipjack tuna which is very popular in Japanese cuisine. It is a special ingredient of the dashi stock and famous dishes in Japan. These are also known as Bonito flakes because they are very thin sheets of the dried kelp.

Pollock roe

It is also known as tarako, Pollack roe, etc. It is seafood, species of COD fish. Its organ like liver, roe is used in many dishes to make it more flavorful and palatable. This ingredient is added to onigiri and sake for some earthy flavors and sharp aroma.

Salted salmon

Salted salmon is the special ingredient of onigiri and nigirimeshi. It is a very flavorful and palatable ingredient to add to the dish. Seafood has the main impact on Japanese cuisine. Its saltiness and aroma with texture give amazing flavors to the dish.

Japanese sushi version of nigirimeshi :


Nigiriushi is the pressed version of sushi which is Japanese sushi. Nigirizushi is the pressed rice version of sushi which is topped with tuna, salmon, etc. Some meat like octopus, crab, fish, oyster, sea urchin etc are added over the rice of sushi.

  • Onigiri is different from sushi in the sense that Onigiri is made from simple glutinous rice while sushi is made up of vinegar rice which is cooked and vinegar is added to it and let it set.
  • Onigiri is cooked in a way to preserve rice while sushi is made by preserving fish.
  • Sushi has fish especially tuna is used in making that dish while onigiri has many variations.

NIGIRIZUSHI is also known as hand pressed sushi.


From Kamakura to the Edo period this dish is invented. They simply take salted cooked rice and make a ball of it by adding fish meat into them and serve. Nori seaweeds are not used at that time but now they become part of the Nigirimeshi dish.

Sumurai stored these rice balls into bamboo sheath and use them at the time of war.


Generally Nigirimeshi and onigiri is made up from simple white boiled rice. These rice must of glutinous nature that can stick rice and formed a nice shape like balls, triangle, etc. Sometimes different ingredients are added to the rice that can make it more flavorful and good in texture like fried rice, bean rice, etc.


Okowa is steamed Japanese style rice cooked from glutinous rice and many different ingredients are added to it. Meat, vegetables, herbs, chestnuts, dried fruits, etc. This rice can also be used in making the beautiful dish nigirimeshi from okowa.


Maze gohan is a Japanese rice dish which is actually known as Mixed Rice. Because cooked rice and cooked meat, cooked vegetables are prepared and then mix all these cooked elements together in a bowl and serve. This rice dish is very popular in Japan and loved by Japanese people. This Maze gohan can be used in making these rice balls with new flavors.


Fried rice is special Japanese and Chinese dish which is popular throughout the world. This dish has all the elements like meat, nuts, vegetables that cooked together by adding sauces like soya sauce, vinegar, chili sauce and cooked on high flame.


There are different types of fillings are used in making nigirimeshi. Nowadays many different flavors and new ingredients are used to make this old traditional dish. New elements make it more flavorful and loved by Japanese people.

There are few of filling used in making this dish :

  • Tsukudani : It is a seaweed that is cooked in a soya sauce and mirin.
  • Hypoptychus : This is the Korean sand lance fish which is very popular in Korea and Japan
  • Manila clams : These are saltwater clams
  • Shiokara : Shiokara is a dish of small meat chunks into heavy thick paste of fermented viscera.
  • Okaka : Smoked bonito flakes.
  • Kakuni : It is a braised pork dish.
  • Dongpo pork : It is a cooked red belly pork dish.
  • Teriyaki chicken : Japanese chicken dish made up from teriyaki sauce.



  • Nori seaweeds : 2 sheets
  • sea salt : 1 teaspoon
  • Umeboshi : 1/2 cup ( pickled )
  • Kombu : 2 tablespoons
  • White sesame seeds : 2 tablespoons
  • Black sesame seeds : 2 tablespoons
  • Tuna mayonnaise : 1/2 cup


  • Short grain rice : 1 cup
  • Salt : 1/2 teaspoon
  • Water : 2 cups


  • Salmon : 2 fillet
  • Kosher salt : 1 teaspoons
  • Olive oil : 2 tablespoons


  • Smoked bonito flakes : 1/2 cup
  • sesame seeds : 1 teaspoons
  • Spya sauce : 4 tablespoons



  • First of all wash the rice with water and soak it for 20 to 30 minutes in water.
  • This step makes rice soft and easy to cook.
  • After soaking add 2 cups od water into a cooking pot and salt with soaked rice.
  • Let them cook together, this short grain rice when soaked in water, cook easily.
  • Now when water is absorbed by rice, let it cover with the lid and cook for 15 minutes on low heat or flame.
  • After 15 minutes rice is ready to assemble.


  • For salmon cooking, sprinkle salt and oil on the fish fillet on both sides and marinate it properly.
  • Now pre heat oven at 350 degree for 10 minutes.
  • Now bake it for 20 minutes at 450 degree.
  • When salmon is cooked properly, take it out and let it cool down.
  • Now shred the meat pieces into small chunks and salmon is ready to assemble.


  • For okaka take bonito flakes and add sesame seeds with soya sauce into it in a bowl.
  • Let them set for 10 minutes and ready to serve.


  • Cut the nori sheets into two parts.
  • Wet both the hands by warm water and start molding the rice into ball shapes. These wet hands make it non sticky to hand but stick to each another easily.
  • Now add one umeboshi fruit, some salted salmon and okaka into the balls by pressing it properly.
  • Now make the balls and cover it with nori seaweeds.
  • Sprinkle some white and black sesame seeds over the rice balls and serve
  • Enjoy 🙂
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