Although Biggie definitely has the market cornered on speed-bento, I do know of a few tricks. Maybe they just stem from overextending myself in one area (intricate art bento) and wanting to be lazy elsewhere.
Nigiri made with an ice cube tray are easy and fast, fast, fast.
Start with a standard plastic ice cube tray, a piece of paper towel and some nonstick cooking spray. Spray the towel, then wrap it around your finger and use it to grease the walls (but not the bottom) of each pocket. Why not the bottom? Well, a little bit is unavoidable, but the toppings (usually meat and eggs) will have fat in them already and you don’t want things to get too greasy. The nonstick spray is mainly there to slide the rice out.
Add the cooled toppings of your choice, cut into rectangles roughly the same size as the bottom of each of the wells. I used egg and slices of cooked sausage. Veggie options work, too, but tofu might get a tad soggy if uncooked. Everything should be cool to minimize the chance of any chemicals heat-leaching from the plastic. I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to chemicals from plastics, so I turn into Little Miss Precautions on this front. Bear with me.
Here’s a filled tray waiting for the rice.
Prepare your sushi rice in advance and make sure it’s nice and cool. Give a spoon a wipe with the nonstick-spray paper towel and use it to fill the remainder of each pocket. Use your fingers to pack it in tightly. Be prepared for the rice trying to slide out… don’t apply too much pressure in any one spot. Just give it a series of nice, even pushes.
Cover with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for 5 minutes or so. It doesn’t need long to set. Remove from the fridge and invert on a flat, level surface (I used my reliable old cutting board). The nigiri should unmold easily.
Presto, 14 pieces of insta-nigiri ready to be wrapped or left as is.
Wrap each with a band of nori or mamenori, just as you would regular banded nigiri.
As you can see, the petite size of the ice-cube tray makes for nigiri that fit very well into any bento box. Here are three of them packed diagonally in the base of a standard adult oval box, with plenty of room left over.
Now, doesn’t that beat individually hand-molding all of those little rice pillows when you’re in a rush?
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