In Japan, o-musubi or o-nigiri are very popular "fast foods". You can go into any convenience store or supermarket and find an array of different gu (fillings)--modern kinds such as ebimayo (shrimp mayonnaise) and kalbi (korean beef) and traditional kinds such as konbu (seasoned kelp) and ume (pickled plum). They have even come out with different o-musubi using different grades of rice such as koshihikari and different styles of cooking the rice such as kamameshi.
Apparently in the Kanto (Eastern Japan) area they are called o-musubi and in the Kansai (Western Japan) area they are called o-nigiri. In Hawaii, we call them musubi. When the immigrants came to Hawaii during the Sugar Cane era, a majority of them were from Hiroshima (my great-grandma included), this area calls them o-musubi, so it is thought that for this reason, the people in Hawaii call them musubi. Since this is the name I'm used to, I'm going to use the word musubi throughout the rest of this post.
In Japanese, to nigiru means to mold with your hands and there are folklore which tells of throwing a rice ball to kiru(cut/kill) an oni(ogre) = oni o kiru--->onigiri. Musubu means to join and is named for a god who would wrap the souls of people with the bounty of the soil, namely rice.
There are 4 popular shapes of musubi. Sankaku (triangular), Taikogata (flat drum shaped), tawaragata (oblong rice bundle shaped) and kyujyo (round ball shaped). The most popular shape is sankaku and is found throughout Japan and Okinawa. The taikogata shape is found mainly in the Tohoku (North-Eastern) part of Japan. The tawaragata shape is found in Kansai (Western Japan) and Kyushu (Southern Japan).
Have you ever tried making them on your own? Were your hands laden with sticky rice and it was just a big, ugly mess? Well, I have the perfect solution. I got this idea from a friend. When I was working in Hawaii, we would eat lunch together and she would bring her musubi wrapped in saran wrap. As she ate it, the shape of the musubi would start to fall apart, so she would constantly re-wrap it and shape the musubi as she ate it.
First off, make sure your rice is sticky. The minute rices or instant rices won't cut it.
Take a piece of saran wrap and place it onto your counter in a diamond shape. Scoop some rice and place it in the middle of the wrap.
Add your gu (filling).
Scoop more rice and put it on top of your gu.
Pick up all four corners.
Now start molding your musubi. Cup your left hand this creates the bottom of the musubi. With your right hand, cup your hand but face your fingers perpendicular to your left hand. Squeeze gently and rotate the "ball" of rice in your hand repeating the cupping and squeezing. After you get the musubi quite compacted, you can add your nori (seaweed sheet). Carefully unwrap your musubi. Laying the saran wrap in the diamond position.
There are two sides to nori. A smooth side. I like this side because it is nice and shiny!
And a rough side. This is the side that was touching the bamboo slats which dried the nori, it doesn't have a sheen to it.
I usually put the rough side onto the musubi and face the smooth side out towards you. You can put which ever side you like facing out.
Now, it is time to wrap your musubi up. I use saran wrap but they used to use bamboo leaves. Bamboo leaves also helps keep germs out and helps keep your musubi fresh. But in recent years due to the cost of harvesting the leaves, it is almost non-existent. I wouldn't mind using the leaves as plastic wrap isn't very green.
Holding the nori place the musubi with the tip of the triangle in the middle of saran wrap and align it with the tip of the diamond.
Bring the bottom of the diamond up and then the left and right sides. The top of the diamond will be the last "fold" (this is so that you will know where to open the musubi when it is time to eat).
All ready to go!
Most people use salted water when they make musubi with their hands. It is supposed to help with preventing spoilage and it is also supposed to taste better but I don't use salt because Satoshi has high blood pressure. I suppose if you would like to use some salt, put some salt into some water and wet your hands with this, re-shape the musubi with your wet salted hands then put the nori onto your musubi.
The nori that I buy is a yakinori (toasted seaweed sheet) and is already cut into "strips", which makes it easy to use, no fussing with scissors and trying to figure out how wide the nori should be. After opening the package of nori, I stick it into the freezer and everyday when I make a musubi for Satoshi, I take one sheet out, wrap his musubi and then stick the package back into the freezer.
What kinds of fillings do I use? I usually buy furikake (dried seasonings for rice), iwanori (wet seasoned seaweed), tsukemono (pickled veggies). I also use shiofuki konbu (dried seasoned seaweed) and tororo konbu (a thinly shaved seaweed). If you can't get these fillings where you are, anything will be fine. Leftover salmon? just flake it and put some into your musubi. The fillings for musubi are endless.
Okay, so let's eat...since you wrapped the musubi with the last fold being the tip, make sure you hold the musubi "upright", open it up.
Have a nice weekend.
p.s. Whatever shape of musubi you make, make sure that you do not cover the whole thing with nori, make sure a little white is showing. In Hawaii, a "black" musubi is what you serve to the deceased.