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Posted on Sep 4, 2008 in Amorette, Bento, Eggs, Meat, Onigiri or Sushi, Rice, Tips, Tutorial or How-to | 27 comments

Speed Bento- Ice Cube Tray Nigiri

Speed Bento- Ice Cube Tray Nigiri


Please welcome guest author Amorette (Sakurako Kitsa), who is writing a series on how to make decorative art bento lunches. ~Biggie

Ice Cube Nigiri

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.

ice cube tray

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 fixin's



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.


filled tray


Here’s a filled tray waiting for the rice.



packing in 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.


flipping it over


 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.



finished and in a box


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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  1. Oh, that’s cool!

    Here’s my trick - a friend from Hawaii gave me a little nigiri mold/scoop/thingy. I scoop up the rice like I would ice cream, and they just press the handle to release. Voila! Perfect little rice balls, as fast as you could scoop cookie dough, all set for little toddler fingers and dinner! I like to do these for dinner, actually, with bowls of various sushi toppings on the side. Then I make up the leftovers with whatever toppings hubby fancies and pack them for his lunch the next day.

  2. This is brilliant! I just finished making my first nigiri tonight, using a little cube mold from Ichibankan. I could only make three at a time - now I just need to run to the dollar store for an ice cube tray!

  3. Brilliant!! Thanks so much for the tip!

  4. I love this! Ice cube trays are so useful, I also use them to freeze mini-portions of carrots/beetroot/spinach juice I happen to use as natural food colors (which I put in small boxes after freezing, in order to cover them up- otherwise can use ice cube trays with their own lids, mine just don’t have it). You could maybe avoid cooking spray if you first cover loosely your tray with plastic wrap, in this way you can press a bit more the rice in each spot, ’cause you use the wrap to take out the nigiri, ready to be wrapped individually for freezing! I’m from Italy, nigiri are not that common, but I love them even because my 2 little kids love them, especially when they’re sick. Last but not least: I happen to freeze even some risotto leftover into little rice balls, coated with corn flour or bread crumbs: when I put them in the oven they get crispy and really tasty!
    Sorry for the long comment…big thanks to Biggie for the precious tips and to Amorette for the art!

  5. Such a good idea! Very useful.

  6. This is awesome for people like me who have no where to get fancy nigiri and rice molds around. Woot!

  7. Genius!! They look so perfect and easy - I need to buy more rice today and try it. Thanks, Amorette, for all the great posts while Biggie’s away.

  8. wow that’s a good way to do mini sushi. thank you for the tips :)

  9. perfect!! Though now I want the scoop thing that the first reviewer mentioned, lol

  10. Rubbermaid is working to make their products BPA free - here’s a list (with pictures!) of their BPA free products - including ice cube trays!!!!

  11. It’s very creative, and I really enjoy your website — however if I may say, I shudder at the thought of having to eat a little bit greasy AND refrigerated rice. .. Japanese people who love sushi (like me) tend to get very fussy about the condition of rice etc. You NEVER refrigerate your rice when you eat at a sushi resto.

  12. This is a great idea, and fun too. I would make with inari tofu as a topping.

    I have some silicon ice cube trays, I wonder if they would work for sushi, you can push out from the bottom, but I think you’d still need plastic wrap to help sushi come out. . .

  13. Oooh, what a cool idea! (No pun intended!) :)

    Seems like the perfect employment of those shaped silicone ice cube trays like these… plus you could most likely skip the non-stick spray! :)

  14. Well, you definitely don’t -have- to refrigerate it. I just did it to make sure it would set, and it was going in a refrigerated bento anyway. It seems like it should work just as well without, I’ll have to experiment.

  15. This is a great idea! And it’s fairly common to refrigerate rice here if you buy from any sushi takeout place or supermarket. Really I worked at a place that made sushi and we refrigerated the rice. But I would agree that the best places choose not to do this (geez, I had never given it thought before!) Oh well, thanks for the great tutorial! ^^

  16. Beautiful! I love it!

    Biggie, this is the first time I’m commenting on your blog but let me tell you I love your blog. First change I made, inspired by you: packing for my husband’s lunch more than just a sandwich. My husband thanks you, I thank you!

  17. This is so simple and creative — I love your idea of using an ice cube tray for speedy sushi! Excellent post.

  18. I tried this yesterday, it worked like a charm!

  19. Cool! I’m glad.

  20. well-said.

  21. Brilliant! Now just imagine how cute these could be with those shaped ice cube trays… @ w@

  22. Brilliant way to put those trays to use for the perfect mouthfuls for parties and buffets, too! Thank you Amorette and Biggie for sharing.

  23. That is absolutely brilliant!!!!
    I now have a actual use for my ice cube trays. I love your website, Biggie!!
    My mother is Korean so your dishes contain ingredients that are so familiar to me. I am a big fan of your website. I will print this out as well as your musubi making tutorial.

  24. This is truly brilliant. And cute!

  25. I tried it tonight and it turned out great. I think I did some things wrong, but that was my fault! I couldn’t get the eggs in a thin layer or flat. My ice cube shapes aren’t as neat as yours. I was using nori for the first time and my bands were too thick. But it was very easy and I thank you for the very thorough directions. Can you re-freeze these afterwards? I thought of that too late when I realized I didn’t need 16 pieces!

  26. Great idea! I’m a bento amateur, and my ice cube trays are looking at me right now. I’ll give it a try, thanks!

  27. That’s a great tip!! I will have to give this a try for my kids. They don’t take bento for lunch, but maybe for snacks at home.


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