Japanese Rice Balls Are the New Food Craze It's OK to Eat with Your Hands
Known by Japanese names onigiri or musubi (or just plain old rice balls), these traditional Japanese lunch-box treats are popping up everywhere in fusion form. Basically rice molded into a cylinder or triangle and filled with a seasoned protein and/or veggie, they’re the Asian analog to the sandwich. Here are some of the spots where Angelenos are enjoying this inexpensive (usually less than $4 per ball) and portable snack.
This farmers’ market vendor pops up everywhere from DTLA to Irvine selling rice rolls. Top-level ingredients range from traditional Japanese cuisine like salmon to more Western iterations such as barbecued beef. And don’t miss the recurring workshops on making critter-shaped rice balls.
Various locations; 323-682-8089 or mamamusubi.com
Kawaba Rice Ball
This Japanese deli serves its musubi made to order, with the rice hot and the outer nori roll crispy. Order “the bomb,” which has rice wrapped around a boiled egg seasoned with sweet soy sauce. It’s basically the definition of umami.
7368 Melrose Ave.; 323-272-4510 or kawabariceball.com
The curry omusubi, with chicken, scallions and Japanese wafuu curry, is jam-packed with flavor but not too hot. (If it’s heat you’re going for, order a side of Godzilla sauce made from anchovies, red chilies and garlic.)
Multiple locations; sunnyblueinc.com
Seoul Sausage Co.
Here the venerable Asian rice ball is fried up and oh-so crispy. They come in two flavor-forward iterations: “flaming” is cheesy kimchi fried rice and pork while “Osaka” is Japanese curried rice, beef and potato. The choice is yours.
Multiple locations; seoulsausage.com
Gam Tu Bop
This little food counter is a five-minute walk from the Americana at the Brand shopping center, so grab a beef bulgogi rice ball coated in savory green furikake seasoning. Eat while you stroll around and window-shop.
132 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; 818-696-1236 or gogamtubop.com