“Onigirazu,” an innovative take on the traditional “onigiri” rice ball, was chosen as 2015’s dish of the year on Monday after the sandwich-like rice dish became a sensation, more than 20 years after it was first introduced in a manga series.
Gurunavi Research Institute said onigirazu, loosely translated as “not gripping,” as opposed to “gripping” for onigiri, best represents the year 2015 because it enables many “creative and innovative” interpretations, thus “broadening the possibilities of rice dishes at a time when people continue to shun them (due to the westernization of Japanese cuisine).”
Tochi Ueyama, author of the long-running “Cooking Papa” manga series, was at a press event held by the Tokyo food research company. He coined the name onigirazu in the comic series in 1991.
“I saw my wife throwing the dish together in a rush when our kid was small, and I drew them in manga and named them onigirazu,” said Ueyama.
Onigirazu is easier and faster to make than a rice ball. It is made by spreading layers of rice and fillings over a sheet of seaweed, folding the seaweed into a square to wrap the contents and cutting it with a knife. In order to make a regular onigiri, one has to stuff fillings into the rice before compressing and shaping it into a ball or a triangle and then wrapping it with seaweed.
Onigirazu came into the spotlight in recent years after it was picked up by Internet users, including those visiting cooking websites in search of recipes.
In addition to being easy to make, people find onigirazu more visually appealing as the colorful fillings, sandwiched by white rice and covered with black seaweed, are all visible as layers.
This year, the popularity of the dish led to many restaurants adding onigirazu to their menus and the publication of recipe books explaining how to make it.
Source: Kyodo Video and image: ANN