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Posted on Aug 23, 2007 in Bento, For Kids, Lactose Free, Meat, Onigiri or Sushi, Recipe, Rice | 24 comments

Meatball and rice “bomb” lunches

Meatball and rice “bomb” lunches


Consider this lunch a bomb — a meatball and rice “bomb”. I came across this rice ball variation in a Japanese-language onigiri cookbook, where it was called a “bakudan onigiri”, or “bomb onigiri”. It’s pretty straightforward: with your hands or ball-shaped onigiri mold (photo below), cover a meatball with short- or medium-grain rice, then completely cover that with moistened scraps of nori seaweed. I used seasoned, roasted Korean seaweed because I like the taste, but regular Japanese sushi seaweed is the norm and is sturdier to work with. Variations include flavoring the rice with furikake rice sprinkles, or replacing the meatball with another flavorful filling like a steamed shumai dumpling. Think outside of the box for fillings — do you have highly seasoned, non-moist leftovers that might go well with rice?

Meatball onigiri lunch

Contents of my lunch: Meatball “bomb” onigiri stuffed with teriyaki & pineapple chicken meatballs (Aidells brand) and wrapped with seasoned Korean seaweed. The second tier has chunks of imitation crab with sanbaizu sweet vinegar sauce (recipe here) and frozen chopped cilantro, yellow and red plum tomatoes, grilled eggplant with miso glaze, and sauteed nopales (prickly pear cactus paddles) with homemade salsa Criolla (vinegary fresh salsa).

Rice ball mold

Morning prep time: 20 minutes, using leftovers (rice, eggplant and salsa Criolla), ready-made food (meatballs) and a flavorful basic sauce I keep in the refrigerator (sanbaizu).

Cooking: I bought the nopales already de-spined and diced, so it was quick work to toss that into a frypan with a little oil and salt to start cooking at the start of meal prep. I added the vinegary salsa Criolla when the nopales got slimy, and cooked until the slime dissipated — then drained and cooled in a mini bowl and strainer before packing. I microwaved the cold rice and meatballs to restore texture, and made the “bomb onigiri” with round onigiri molds (shown at left) dipped in water to assist the release. I picked up this mold at Daiso in Daly City for US$1.50 in the freezer container section; check their store locator for additional locations internationally.

Packing: I cut the long slices of leftover eggplant into bite-size pieces for easy eating, and cut the middle onigiri rice ball in half just for the photo to show what’s inside. These are much more stable when left intact; I don’t recommend cutting them apart before packing. Future versions will be packed and photographed whole. Lunch packed in two 350ml tiers of a Lock & Lock lunch set.

Meatball lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: Bug requested that his meatballs be separate from his rice, so he’s got some halved meatballs and shaped onigiri (rice mixed with salmon furikake), plus a cheese triangle with his lunch. Everything went down the hatch except the nopales, which he tried but didn’t like. Oh well, at least he tried it!

Morning packing time: 16 minutes (didn’t have to make the “bomb onigiri”).

Packing: Packed in a 350ml Geki Ranger box, with a rounded-tip octopus pick for the meatballs. Everything but the nopales was finger food. If I were to remake this lunch for solo preschooler eating, I’d remove the pits from the cherries.



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  1. Man what a great idea to combine meatballs and onigiri ^_^ That I’ll have to try! And crabstick with sanbaizu is another fave of mine!

  2. The “bombs” reminds me alot of scotch eggs, minus the deep frying and minus the eggs although tossing an egg in there over the meatball should pose no issue. I will be sure to try them out.

  3. How long after adding the dressing to the nopales does the slime dissipate? Can you tell just by looking at it?

  4. Ooh, the rice bombs remind me of Cappriciosa’s “rice korokke” — arborio rice with cheese in the middle, then floured, egged, and rolled in panko and fried.

  5. @1 from amvn: Also try it with (microwaved?) shumai or little dumplings — yummy and simple!

  6. @2 from Jessica: Yes, an egg (esp. a quail egg) would work as well, although I’d think you’d want some strong seasoning in there as well.

  7. @3 from Sherri: I think it’s the vinegar that helps cut the slime; it took maybe 3 minutes after adding the vinegary salsa for the slime to dissipate. Another way to do this is to toss the nopales with a little olive oil (and salt) and roast them under the broiler, stirring part way. It gets slimy halfway through — just stir and hang in there, the slime disappears with more cooking.

  8. @4 from mamichan: Oh yes, that’s arancini — excellent use for leftover risotto. Pop some mozzarella cheese in the middle, fry ‘em up — delicious! I saw Lydia Bastianich make those a few years ago on one of her cooking shows. I really like her (very educational).

  9. Thanks Biggie 8^)
    I’ll try them one more time, and see if I can get rid of the slime. If so, maybe DH might try them one more time; my first attempt was so bad he said he’d rather eat mule butt LOL — they were pretty slimy!

  10. You have so inspired me!!!! I made my first bento today and I hope that there will be many more to come. :) You can see it here!

  11. You’ve inspired me!!!!!! I actually took the plunge and made my first bento today. You can see it here:

  12. @11 from Amber: (For some reason your comments got caught in my blog’s spam filter. I’ve marked them as being “NOT SPAM” so this shouldn’t happen again — sorry!) That’s great about making your first bento! Just jump right in and start packing. What’s in them? Mini bagel sandwiches? Yum!

  13. Biggie, I just had to try the bombs. So Thursday I went shopping to for the seasoned nori and meatballs (all I could find were the Italian-flavored ones). The meatballs were too big to fit into the onigiri mold so I quartered them. Oh, they were wonderful - much quicker and easier than I thought they’d be - and my family loved them! Thanks so much for the idea!!! :D

  14. @13 from oh_mom: Oh good, I’m glad that worked out for you! Making the round onigiri with your hand or in a piece of plastic wrap (twisted, like with the scrambled egg purses) is actually pretty simple with the ball shapes, too.

  15. Oh my - the possibilities! Quail eggs in black rice! with tororo konbu on the outside, maybe. Or those cod sprinkles.

    Now, what, besides a meatball, would be really cool wrapped in red rice?

  16. @15 from Obiwan Bento (a.k.a. the former One More Bento Fan): Hmm, this could be fun for Halloween — blood-shot eyeballs! Fish balls? Chunks of meat/fish/veggies?

  17. Those look so yummy!

    I have just one question: did you wet the seaweed before wrapping it around the rice? Because I find it really hard to get them to conform with the ball. Some end always sticks out.

  18. @17 from Christine: I wet my hands when handling the seaweed, and keep dipping them (my hands) in water when putting the nori on the rice. At the end when the bomb is totally wrapped, there are (as you say) some ends sticking out, so I rewet and sort of cup the ball in my hands for a number of seconds until the nori affixes. For best flavor (and improved food safety), you can put a little salt on your moistened hands (or in the water for your hands) when shaping the ball, which flavors the rice.

  19. Your obento always inspires me !

    Now I’m making obento for lunch so maybe I’ll try your imitation crab thing soon :)

    And rice “bomb” sounds omoshiroi & kawaii :D

  20. I get so many great ideas from your posts! My question is how do you store all your different containers, lids, etc.? I have a lot of bento-ish odds and ends, plus 3 Laptops, but my dishwasher doesn’t have a dry mode, so everything gets put away loose and cluttered, and it all dries in the cupboard. But what a mess!!!! Any advice on tidy storage would be appreciated!

  21. I came back to this Bento for ideas: I made a rice bomb today for my son but found myself wondering at the nori wrap. I cut a circle larger than the rice ball but was not sure if it was too large. When I wrapped the rice up, I felt like I had too much extra nori wrap but didn’t know if I should cut it off or try to lay it down over the rice. Any further ideas or instructions would be so appreciated! (My son LOVED this rice bombo)!

  22. @19 from Yoshi: Thanks for the kind comment, Yoshi — I’m happy you’re inspired. The rice bombs are quite tasty, even for people who don’t like traditional sushi or onigiri. Try them out!

  23. @20 from Tory: I’ve carved out kitchen cabinet space for my boxes, but my onigiri molds need reorganization. The rest of my bento accessories are pretty well under control with Ikea organizers, as per this post.

  24. @21 from Amber: Sorry I wasn’t more specific with directions for the nori wrapping. I make them with leftover nori scraps because, as you say, using one big piece of nori leaves you with WAY too much overlap. A little overlap is fine and helps hold everything together (wet your hands to get everything to lie flat and adhere), but too many layers of nori makes for a tough rice ball. Does this help?