What do you get when you cross sushi with a sandwich? A Japanese dish called onigirazu, which is a seaweed-wrapped rice ball – with fillings – that is not pressed into the traditional round or triangular shape. Turns out our very own Whole Foods has been testing “sushi sandwiches,” or at least a variation of the traditional Japanese onigirazu, in a few of their stores in Philadelphia, DC, and Virginia, thanks to Genji, a sustainable and all-natural sushi provider that currently operates in many Whole Foods stores.
Top Photo: genjisushibars Instagram
By the way, I try not to upset my ancestors by using the incongruous words “sushi sandwich” too frequently.
Also, it brings to mind a horrible creation that I saw on Pinterest which involved cream cheese, cucumbers and tuna rolled up into a piece of flattened Wonder bread. Shudder. But this is not that.
In fact, I’ve been making my own onigirazu for years for my kids, because they’re the perfect thing to tuck into a bento or lunch box. It’s easy to hold for small hands, less messy than a sandwich, and with its filling of rice and vegetables, it’s a healthy alternative to school cafeteria fare.
Sushi sandwiches would be great for parties or school events, since the way the seaweed wraps around the sides and bottom means less sticky rice sticking to little fingers.
Photo: © Marsha Takeda-Morrison
Now that my kids are grown and don’t need me to make their lunches (as often) (even if I beg) I make the compact, easy-to-eat bundles for my grown-up dinner parties; they’re a big hit as an appetizer or side dish to a bowl of ramen.
A friend once remarked that it’s like sushi, only better, because they’re slightly bigger than sushi rolls and you don’t have to keep returning to the buffet table as often.
She then proceeded to drink all of my good saké. But that’s another story.
How to make your own onigirazu, or sushi sandwiches
If you don’t live near any of the Whole Foods stores that are currently carrying them, or you just want to try your hand at homemade, you can easily make onigirazu yourself. You don’t even have to be an experienced sushi chef to do it.
All you’ll need is some short grain “sushi” rice, seaweed (nori), and a few fillings of your choice like sliced cucumbers, avocado, chicken or shredded carrot. You can even add condiments like hot sauce.
To assemble, pat the rice into a square on a piece of seaweed, and top with fillings. Then bring the corners of the seaweed up and wrap around like you’re wrapping a package.
For help, I love the detailed instructions for making ongirazu on Just One Cookbook, which is my own go-to site for Japanese recipes.
While you can certainly make yours freehand by shaping your rice into a square shape with your hands or a wooden spoon, I prefer to use this handy onigirazu press which is just around $12 from our affiliate Amazon. I think it helps to press and compact the rice and fillings into a firmer shape, making it easier to eat and less likely to fall apart.
Try it! In no time you’ll be making your own Pinterest-ready onigirazu that will make your kid’s lunch the envy of the lunchroom or your next party — and it doesn’t require even a single slice of Wonder bread.
Find onigirazu at select Whole Foods stores in Philadelphia, DC, and Virginia for $9.99.