Omusubi Gonbei

omusubi-gonbei

Omusubi Gonbei

Rice balls, onigiri or omusubi, may be Japan’s greatest comfort food. I wrote about onigiri for a column on Japanese breakfast in Tokyo for The Japan Times. Omusubi Gonbei is a short walk from Shibuya station.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/09/02/food/onigiri-japans-perfect-morning-meal/#.WBqdxeF96Cc

Omusubi Gonbei おむすび権米衛

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-7-3 渋谷区渋谷1-7-3

03-3498-2556

opens 8 a.m., weekdays, 9 a.m. weekends and holidays

www.omusubi-gonbei.com/shoplist/tokyo/shibuya/aoyama.html

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Risaku Onigiri Breakfast 利さく

My last monthly Japanese breakfast column for The Japan Times was on onigiri. The highlight of my research was this lovely gem, Sendagi Risaku. All of the other shops were part of a chain, but this was an independent shop that, for me, is worth having on your radar when you visit the Yanaka area.

The Japan Times column for more details:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/09/02/food/onigiri-japans-perfect-morning-meal/#.V9zPGJN97uQ

Risaku 利さく

Bunkyo-ku, Sendagi 2-31-6 文京区千駄木2-31-6

03-5384-7292

opens 8 a.m.

www.risaku.jimdo.com

closest station: Sendagi

 

 

Tsukiji Fishmongers’ Breakfast 築地気まぐれ屋

Kimagureya is a popular sandwich shop for the workers at Tsukiji Market. Most of the workers get the sandwiches to go. Often a worker from a stall will come and pick up a big order for him and his colleagues.

The simple menu includes fried items like shrimp, chicken or croquettes, and more standard sandwich fillings like tuna salad, egg salad, or ham and cheese. Each sandwich is about 140 – 200 JPY. The cold sandwiches are on display in the window. Hot sandwiches, like fried chicken, menchi katsu (fried ground meat cutlet),  korokke (croquette), or ebi katsu (shrimp cutlets) are kept in warm boxes in the kitchen.

The shop also sells onigiri, rice sandwiches stuffed with salmon, spicy cod roe, pickled umeboshi, and more at 140 JPY each.

The staff do not speak English and the menu is only in Japanese, so if you go, point at one of the cold sandwiches, you can see the fillings. Or, if you want a hot sandwich, pick from the list above and ask for it, slowly. 🙂

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Tsukiji Kimagureya

The biggest surprise was how the sandwiches are assembled. It is one slice of bread that is stuffed and folded over. I love this. The chicken katsu above is seasoned with julienned cabbage and sauce (think Worcestershire). Kimagure is a Japanese word that means fickle, whimsical, or capricious. Perfect name for these sandwiches. 🙂

Kawasaki-san, the owner of Tsukiji Turret Coffee, put this lovely shop on my radar. He sometimes stops by here before he opens his shop. His favorite is the ebi katsu, deep-fried shrimp cutlet sandwich.

An older couple runs this very local shop. I am worried that once the market moves to Toyosu in November as most of their customers seem to come from the inner market.

The shop sits on a quiet side street. There is a tiny plastic table with two seats in front of the shop. I like to sit here and watch as the workers drive by on the turrets delivering seafood. This is far away from the long lines at the sushi shops, and this is where the local workers eat. A very unique change from the hoards of people standing in line for sushi. I prefer this quiet breakfast.

Kimagureya 気まぐれ屋

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 6-21-6  中央区築地6-21-6

Nakameguro Onigily Cafe

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

The Nakameguro area is filled with many great restaurants, including my favorite pizzeria, Seirinkan. Just a short walk from Nakameguro station is Onigily Cafe. Onigiri is perhaps the quintessential comfort food in Japan. Rice stuffed with a savory filling that is often wrapped with nori. I almost didn’t go in as the spelling of onigiri with an l just seemed so wrong, but it was hot and I needed to take a break. From outside I could see the handmade onigiri and they looked to good to resist.

Onigily Cafe interior

Onigily Cafe interior

The interior is also inviting as it is brightly lit and there are a handful of tables and a counter at the window. I had the mentaiko and takana, a great combination of spicy pollack roe with pickled greens. The annin dōfu was the best I have had in Tokyo. I will go back just for the almond custard.

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

I was surprised that the onigiri that I was served had just a small piece of nori. But forgot all about that when I bit in. The rice was still warm and was lightly pressed, it was like a pillow.

This is a great spot for vegetarians as there is a good selection of vegetable-only onigiri including yukari (salted red shiso) natto, leek miso with shiso, kombu, umeboshi, soft-boiled egg, and salt. There is also a selection of vegetable side dishes including potato salad, tomato salad, pickled cucumbers, and turnips with kombu.

It was not surprising that there were many people coming for take-away. The prices range from 100 – 200 JPY with most averaging about 155 JPY, which is about the same as you would pay at a convenience store. But these are just so much better.

Onigily Cafe

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 3-1-4 目黒区中目黒3-1-4

www.onigily.com/

Onigirazu – Rice Sandwiches

Family Mart Sando Omusubi

Family Mart Sando Omusubi

Onigiri or omusubi are savory stuffed rice balls that are often wrapped in nori. The shape is traditionally a triangle. Onigiri is something we eat at least once a week. These are perfect for picnics, hiking, as a quick meal or snack. But the onigiri is not perfect. The stuffings are concentrated in the center and the edges are not as flavorful as the middle.

The onigirazu, or sandwich omusubi, takes care of that. With the new and very popular onigirazu, every bite will include some of the stuffing. Better yet, if you are making these at home, it simply requires a folding technique. No fancy squeezing and molding to get the triangle shape.

Onigirazu, which actually means onigiri without forming or molding. Brilliant name for something that I wish I would have thought of long ago.

Sando Omusubi

Sando Omusubi

Cookbook shelves have about a half dozen books on the topic. Today I found a “Sando Omusubi” (sandwich omusubi) at Family Mart, a popular convenience store. It was almost twice as expensive as the regular onigiri, I guess as there is more rice and stuffings. Usually the rice balls start at about 100 JPY, but this was for almost 200 JPY.

This is the sando omusubi out of the package.

Tuna and Cheese

Tuna and Cheese

Tuna mayo, canned tuna and mayonnaise, is a popular flavor. Here you can see how the generous stuffing goes all the way to the edges.

Now that these are being sold at convenience stores we know that it is no longer a trend among mothers making these for their kids, but that it has reached the mainstream market.

Please let me know if you try these and how you think they compare to the traditional ones. I am a big fan of the new and improved omusubi/onigiri.

Tsukiji Market Breakfast – Onigiriya Marutoyo おにぎり屋 丸豊

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Onigiri or omusubi is the quintessential comfort food in Japan. A ball of rice that is stuffed with savory fillings. I grew up eating this and it makes for the perfect quick bite. Onigiri-ya Murotoyo is a famous shop in Tsukiji Market known for its handmade onigiri. A television show recently featured this shop and my curiosity was piqued. Marutoyo is just a few shops down from our favorite knife shop, Tsukiji Masamoto.

The selection to choose from is surprisingly rich. I stood there for minutes as I couldn’t decide. The signs are in Japanese so best to ask for your favorites like:

sake – salmon

umeboshi – pickled apricot

ikura – marinated salmon roe

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There is a small seating area around the corner to the right of the shop. A tiny table and a few chairs where you can rest your feet. Marutoyo also servse miso soup and small side dishes if you want to round out the meal. There are also sushi rolls and chirashi-zushi, but it is the onigiri that makes this shop famous.

I went with the bakudan which is stuffed with a soft-boiled egg and a seasonal one of tempura of bamboo shoots. The rice balls are a bit on the pricey side, about twice what you pay for at the convenience stores, and worth the mark-up. My only gripe is that it was under seasoned. I would have liked a bit more salt on the outside of the omusubi. I will be back, and next time I will order an item that is naturally salty, like ikura or pickled greens like takana or the classic umeboshi.

Onigiri-ya Marutoyo

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-9

The shop opens early in the morning, around 3 a.m. according to one website, and is open until about 2 p.m.