The Healthy Japanese Fast Food – Onigiri

  • FOOD
  • When one hears fast food one tends to think about the unhealthy category of food one sometimes has a weakness for. Whether hamburgers, greasy pizza or other calorie bombs, it definitely does not sound healthy. Who would have thought that Japanese answer to that is a healthy option, that keeps you full for even longer than its competitors do? Who has not heard of onigiri (おにぎり): if you come to Japan this food item is inevitable!

    Word origin

    Onigiri is actually divided into “o”, which is a polite prefix and “nigiri”, which means “hold” or “hold firmly”. Onigiris are formed by grasping rice and forming it into a beautiful triangle, using middle and ring fingers of both hands.


    Similar to pizza, there is no limitation on what to use as a filling! Though there is one common rule, and that is to stick to savory ingredients, rather the using sweet or tasteless options. Popular versions are the following:

    • Ume – pickled plum (quite sour)
    • Shake – salmon flakes
    • Ikura – salmon roe (not everyone’s cup of tea)
    • Kombu – seaweed (a bit sweet)
    • Tuna mayo – tuna and mayonnaise (save for beginners)
    Cultural impact

    Onigiri are popular among people of any age, regardless of social rank or region. They are similar to sandwiches, which can be made quickly and are convenient to eat on the go. They can be seen in various movies, manga or anime, since it is the staple of “cheap eat” and a part of everyday life in Japan. June 18th is “onigiri day”, and the reason to devote a whole day to this fast food is due to archeological findings, which were discovered in Ishikawa prefecture on June 18 1987, carbonized rice from the Yaoi period which are thought to be “rice balls”.