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Posted on Oct 5, 2007 in Bento, Equipment, For Kids, Lactose Free, Onigiri or Sushi, Poultry, Rice, Tutorial or How-to | 21 comments

Rice cube bento lunches

Rice cube bento lunches


Square onigiri lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: “Rice cubes” (cube-shaped onigiri, made with rice mixed with shrimp and nori-flavored furikake rice seasoning — furikake sold here), grape tomatoes, Chinese fried chicken leg, fresh black Mission fig, and steamed broccoli with red wine vinaigrette. At school, Bug ate all of the onigiri and the chicken, then finished the rest in the car when I picked him up. The teacher said he was excited about the rice cubes and ate them first, which is not surprising because I let him help me make them in the morning.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using chicken from a Chinese BBQ joint and leftover refrigerated rice that I microwaved to restore texture before shaping.

Rice cube press

Packing: I wrapped the end of the chicken drumstick in decorative aluminum foil from Daiso to create a clean handle, and arranged the broccoli stems in a reusable plastic food cup. Packed in my 470ml Afternoon Tea box (replaced for US$2 at Irving Housewares in San Francisco).

Gear: My friend Yuuko brought me back a fun little gadget from a recent trip to Japan; I’ve decided to call it a “rice cuber.” It’s a little press that makes cube-shaped onigiri rice balls, and the makeup is similar to the ice cream sandwich molds I’ve use as egg molds. It makes two different sized onigiri (2.5cm and 3cm), which can be arranged in a fun checkerboard pattern using different colored mix-ins with the rice. You could make a batch of these, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze to have a nice stash on hand for busy mornings. Just be sure to microwave frozen onigiri before packing to restore texture (nuke until warm).

Rice cube press

To use, I mixed some furikake in with some warm rice for flavor and color contrast, and used the tiny textured paddle to gently spoon the rice into the cylinder with the cap on one end.

Rice cube press

After pushing the rice down loosely with the paddle, I used the little rabbit-shaped pusher to gently tamp the rice down into a cube. The trick with any onigiri mold is to use just enough pressure to give it shape and hold together, but not so much that you create dense little hockey pucks that are unpleasant to eat.

Rice cube press

Once the cube is formed, remove the bottom portion of the mold and use the pusher to slide the “rice cube” out the bottom. Voila! (Click for additional photos of the package, the Japanese directions, and the finished product.) You can also get creative and mold food other than rice (a la One More Bento Fan on Flickr). Think scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, steel-cut oatmeal, couscous, etc.



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  1. Those cube molds are adorable. I’ll have to check out the Mt. View Daiso to see if they have anything like it.


  2. @1 from sea: They are cute, aren’t they? I haven’t noticed them at Daiso yet, but you never know. Hey, have you noticed if the Mtn. View Daiso is open yet?

  3. They ARE cute, you could use them for mashed potatoes too, fortifying the mash with egg and then fry the cubes for chopstick friendliness.
    However, looking at them I find myself smiling, thinking that this is just soooo japanese. This said, I scour ebay for many things japanese that I can’t get here.

  4. haha what a cute tool to make onigiri!

  5. I found them on ebay, but way to expensive for me! Way cute, though!

  6. @3 from Jessica: Yes, it really is quite Japanese, isn’t it? But then again you could get a similar effect by patting rice down into those shaped silicone ice cube trays…

  7. @4 from Cindy: Ha ha, my son agrees with you!

  8. @5 from juLEs: US$10+ for these is WAY too expensive!!! I think they were from the dollar store (uh, 100-yen store?), so I’d be hesitant to pay much more for them. $3 max.

  9. Biggie - I am really enjoying your website. After lurking for a couple of weeks, I made it over to the local Japanese grocery and bought myself the thermal mini bento from Zojirushi for days with hot lunches, and a square bento box for days with unheated lunches. While I was at it, I bought myself this lovely onigiri mold. Very lovely. I made the onigiri and put it in the fridge. I warmed it this morning to return the texture and it fell apart. Do you know what I did wrong?

  10. we have little mold almost just like this, clear in a square, circle, and pentagon; in our cookie cutter containers that I picked up when I was little that I just never knew what to do with. I’ll have to try this.

  11. @9 from Hungry Gal: I’m sorry I missed your comment in the shuffle! I have best results when I freeze the onigiri or yaki onigiri, then nuke it (as opposed to refrigerating it). If I refrigerate shaped rice, I generally have to reshape it afterwards.

  12. @10 from Skysong: The little cookie cutter molds sound like they could be ideal for this — clever multi-tasking! I’d be curious about how they work out for you (you might want to dip them in cold water before molding rice to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the mold too much).

  13. Do you know where in Japan your friend bought the “rice cuber”? I want to go pick one up!

  14. @13 from Fuji Mama: No, but I’ll ask her where she got it and let you know.

  15. Could you mold quail eggs in those? A 2.5 cm cube should be about 16 ml or about a tablespoon. A 3 cm cube would be 27 ml, almost two tablespoons. A large chicken egg is over 3 tablespoons so it would be too big — if it fit at all, it would be a rectangle instead of a cube. But I don’t know the volume of a quail egg. Might be cute if it would be close to cube shaped.

  16. I love the rice cubes. I’ve tried them for myself and everyone in my classes at the University marvel over how tiny, but delicious the lunch is.

    In going with this trend, I was at Ikea a few months ago and found synthetic rubber ice cube trays (the product name is PLASTIS) with different shapes (stars, hearts, triangles, etc.) and tried that with rice. I just put the freshly cooked rice in the ice cube molds and let them cool. The rubber mold makes it easy to pop them out, and I just added furikake to make the heart pink ^_^

    The molds are dishwasher safe as well, which is a plus in my book.

  17. @15 from Sunflower: I don’t see why you couldn’t mold quail eggs in these as long as you secure the cap and plunger securely with a rubber band.

  18. @16 from Lorna: I have some of those rubber ice cube trays from Ikea! I froze leftover cupcake frosting in them for laughs with Bug, and popped the frozen triangles out into a freezer bag afterwards. Dishwasher-safe is always an added benefit — I agree.

  19. Anyone have any good ideas about common household products that we could use to something similar?

  20. I don’t live anywhere where I can easily buy silicone ice cube trays or rice cube molds. Shipping would take weeks… just some normal things that I could change or reform to make into such a mold?