Tuesday, April 26, 2005


The cherry blossoms are open at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Apparently they've been on the verge of opening all week, but I've been a bit distracted. In Tokyo, this is a wonderful time where the Japanese become a lot happier. I wonder if it reminds them of falling in love.

Or getting really drunk with their friends and/or co-workers.

Hanamae means flower in Japanese. In Tokyo they have hanamae parties, where they sit under the cherry blossom trees and have picnics. I'm sure young lovers have the more romantic type, and others have the ones more focused on drinking. Many Japanese people have a very low tolerance for alcohol in my personal experience.

A very easy and common picnic food is Onigiri or Rice Balls, as they say in English.

Onigiri is simply the equivalent of a sandwich in America. Meaning, you can put pretty much whatever you want to taste as the flling. Or as my Japanese friend calls it, "your treasure."

Making these can be very easy with the aid of an Onigiri shaper, which can be bought at Sunrise Mart. However, it's equally easy shaped in some plastic wrap.

Optional is a piece of nori. One needs to cut up nori squares into elongated rectangular strips.

Joy's Tuna Salad Avocado Onigiri

1 cup of cooked Short-Medium Grain Nishikin rice (I use a rice cooker)
1/4th of a small onion finely minced
1 can of tuna
Mayonnaise to taste
Spicy mustard to taste
freshly ground pepper
lemon (optional)
1/2 ripe haas avocado large diced
3 sheets of nori cut into long rectangles

Onigiri shaper or plastic wrap

The architecture of the onigiri is like this: pad of rice, tablespoon of filling, second pad of rice. Squish. Most onigiri are formed in plump triangles, or flatten spheres. Also, please note that the filling needs to be flavorful enough so that the rice

For me, two or three of these babies will fill me up for lunch. They travel pretty well. Another thing to note is keeping the nori separate until you're going to eat the onigiri, otherwise it gets a little moist and less crunchy.

Other fillings I enjoy: spicy tuna salad (use the chinese chili condiment to mix with the tuna), bonito and american cheese. You can also season the rice with rice seasonings and mix it up and have no filling (no treasure!).

Suggestions for a Japanese Picnic:

Thermos of Ice Jasmine Green White Peach Tea
Fresh Melon slices

A few Japanese phrases:

Oishi - delicious
Onaka ippai - I'm full

and don't forget Itadakimasu! Which is a sort of thank you for the food meaning literally, "I will receive," but means roughly "Let's Eat!"

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