Soft and chewy rice of this vegan onigiri is filled with meaty, spicy eggplant or aubergine and wrapped with salty nori. The perfect snack/ lunch for on the road or at work.
Vegan onigiri filled with spicy eggplant
Earlier, in this post I explained how you can cook short-grain rice (also called sushi rice). It also describes how you can make onigiri (rice balls) of leftover rice, together with meat or vegetables. However, a detailed recipe was missing.
So here a recipe for Japanese onigiri or in Korean: samgak-gimbak. Because I use a filling with Korean chili paste, the Korean name would be better. But who is searching for the samgak-gimbak recipe? So onigiri it is.
This is a vegan recipe. I like to eat a little meat or fish but in this recipe a meat or fish addition would be too much. With the meaty texture of the eggplant and the full flavour of the fermented Korean chili paste you won’t miss the meat.
“The secret for a good vegan recipe? Combine ingredients with meaty, chewy textures with a fermented seasoning for the umami.”
The filling with spicy eggplant for onigiri
For me, the quality and texture of the sushi rice is the most important for onigiri: soft and chewy and not too wet or sticky.
the eggplant cubes are sticky and sweet due to the caramelized onion, the Korean chili paste and the agave. And also salty because of the soy sauce.
“The eggplant must have a very intense taste because a small amount of filling has to give flavour to the rice.”
Tip: do not cut the eggplant cubes larger than 1 by 1 cm. The larger, the easier the onigiri falls apart. But when the cubes are too small, you will lose the meat-like texture of the eggplant.
Filling and shaping the onigiri
If you have a shape to experience the onigiri, it is handy but not a must. You can do fine with your hands. The point is that you can get a little filling in a ball of rice.
This recipe is sufficient for 8 pieces of onigiri. I used a shape with edges of 8 cm long.
Wet your hands if you don’t use a mold. But when you do, place baking paper or foil under the mold.
On the photo above you can see that I used a lot of filling. Then the rice ball falls apart very easily. That’s why I fold a strip of nori around each edge. Try to put as little nori on top of each other as possible. The thicker the nori layer, the tougher it becomes.
Unfortunately, the nori quickly becomes tough when it is folded around the rice. Nori is best when you eat it immediately after making it.
When you want to make them in advance, you can buy pre-packaged nori specially for onigiri. This nori is between 2 layers of plastic and can be purchased at Korean and Japanese shops. Fold the preformed rice ball in plastic and close it. The nori doesn’t touch the rice and therefore stays fresh. Remove the plastic and fold the crispy nori around the rice ball when you are ready for a delicious rice snack!
During our trip to Japan, we ate so much pre-packaged onigiri that we have reached our onigiri-plastic quota. I now pack onigiri that I take with me in baking paper that I can reuse.
Don’t make the onigiri for the road? Serve with Korean spinach and sesame. The recipe you can find here.Print
Onigiri Filled With Spicy Eggplant (Aubergine)
Soft and chewy rice of this vegan onigiri is filled with meaty, spicy eggplant or aubergine and wrapped with salty nori. The perfect snack/ lunch for on the road or at work
- Prep Time: 40
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 8 1x
- Category: Lunch, snack, easy dinner
- Method: Cooking, stir-frying
- Cuisine: Japanese, Korean
cooked rice 1 (about 4 small bowls):
- 1x the recipe for sushi rice
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar, optional
- 2 tsp sugar, optional
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, optional
- 2 small onions, peeled and in thin strips
- 2 small eggplants, peeled
- 1 tbsp Korean chili powder, optional
- 3 tbsp soy sauce 2
- 5 tbsp rice vinegar
- 5 tbsp of agave or honey if you don’t eat vegan
- 2 tbsp Korean fermented chili paste 3
- 3 nori sheets, cut in half and cut in half again into 4 equal, short strips.
- 1 tbsp white and/or black sesame seeds, roasted in a pan without oil
- An onigiri shape/ mold with 8 cm edges, optional
- Cook the rice as described here. Or according to the instructions on the package.
- Mix rice vinegar, sugar and salt if you want to give the rice a little taste. This is not necessary.
- Mix everything with the warm rice and let it cool.
- Peel the eggplant. Cut it in cubes of 1 by 1 cm. Rather cut them a little smaller than bigger. Too large will make the rice ball fall apart, too small will make the filling lose its solid texture.
- Heat a spoonful of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Fry the onions for a few minutes until they are soft and light brown.
- Add the aubergines to onions and fry until soft on the outside.
- Add the ingredients for the sauce to the pan and stir-fry over medium-high heat. If the sauce becomes too thick, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. After a few minutes, the aubergines are soft and tender but still firm. Let cool.
Filling and shaping the onigiri:
- Prepare the rice, eggplant and nori. Divide the rice into 8 equal portions.
- If you use a mold, place a baking paper or foil under it. Keep your hands wet if you don’t use a mold.
- Start with a thin layer of rice (half of 1 portion of rice) in the form or on your hand.
- Spoon a little filling in the middle of the rice layer.
- Cover this with another layer of rice (the other half).
- Push the rice ball into a compact triangle with your hands or with the mold. Each edge is about 8 cm long and 2 cm thick.
- Stick a strip of nori around each edge. Aim symmetrically at the middle of each edge. Now you have 3 equal uncovered corners of rice.
- Optional: dip each corner in roasted sesame seeds. It is decorative and adds a crispy texture.
- Repeat the steps above until the rice has run out. There might be some filling left.
- For onigiri you must use short grain rice/ sushi rice. Other kinds of rice are not suitable.
- Gluten-free: use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari if you are on a gluten-free diet.
- Gluten-free: the Korean chili paste is usually gluten-free. But always check the ingredient list before buying. This pasta is in a red plastic container. Available at the Asian grocery shop.
Keywords: eggplant, gluten-free, how to make, onigiri, howto, Japanese, Korean, lactose-free, nori, spicy, rice balls, samgak-gimbak, sushi rice, vegan, lunch, snack, aubergine