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Artful Japanese snack: Onigiri

An onigiri (stuffed Japanese rice ball) makes a

An onigiri (stuffed Japanese rice ball) makes a satisfying snack. (Sept. 26, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)

I stopped into one of my favorite Asian groceries today, Shin Nippon Do in Roslyn Heights. In addition to tea, rice, candy, frozen food and all manner of imported Japanese grocery items, the shop also carries pristine raw fish and fresh produce (including hard-to-find Japanese vegetables). Owner Shoji Akio is one of the Gold Coast’s best sushi-making chefs. Call to order in advance and be prepared to be wowed.

I was in search of kuki-cha, an obscure Japanese green tea made from the stalks (as opposed to the leaves) of the tea plant, of which I consume close to a quart most days. Shin Nippon Do had it; I bought four packages. At the register I saw a basket of onigiri, rice balls, that also wound up in my shopping bag.

In form, onigiri ($1.50) are three-inch equilateral triangles about one inch thick. The rice conceals a stuffing — such as tuna salad, pickled plum, shrimp, marinated kelp — and is wrapped in nori, the seaweed used in sushi maki rolls. They are delicious, but what I love most about them is the artful packaging. The seaweed wrap would become soggy in short order should it come in contact with the rice, so the seaweed is actually encased in plastic. You unwrap the seaweed, then wrap it around the rice for a delicious and texturally exciting snack.

Shin Nippon Do is at 63 Mineola Ave., Roslyn Heights, 516-625-1814, shinnippondo.com.
 

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