In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild there are many recipes that Link can make on an open fire to boost his health and abilities while out in the fields of Hyrule. One of them, Meaty Rice Balls (or if you prefer, Seafood Rice Balls) is actually onigiri, an easy to make Japanese snack that, like the adaptable dishes of Breath of the Wild, can be packed with a variety of fillings. In Japan you can find anything from curried beef to pickled radishes inside. For this recipe, I’ve chosen salmon, my favorite.
This recipe is based on handrolled onigiri, the kind that looks like an actual ball. However the game depicts the triangular style onigiri, which can be achieved with a mold. You can get them cheap on Amazon. Using one drastically reduces the prep time and saves your hands from a bit of scorching.
Believe it or not, the hardest part of making onigiri is cooking the rice. This may come as a surprise given the impeccable shape of a rice ball, but it’s true. Onigiri is made with sushi rice, which is sticky and holds shape. If you have a rice maker you can cut the cooking process down by several steps but in this recipe you will find instructions for preparing it on the stove, just in case.
3 cups (570 g) sushi rice
2 cups (480 ml) water
1/2 lb (230 g) fresh salmon
Dried seaweed sheets (seasoned or unseasoned is fine, just make sure they’re the thin strips, not the full sushi seaweed sheets)
Furikake, if desired
Start by preparing the salmon. Choose a cut from a fresh Pacific caught fish. Atlantic salmon is almost always farmed, and the fish are often kept in pens and raised on a low nutrient feed that affects the taste (check the tail of the piece—if the salmon has been farmed, the fins will have nibbles and bite marks). For this recipe you can use a thin cut of sockeye tail. First season it with pepper and salt, then place in the oven on a bed of aluminum foil. Set the broiler to LOW, then cook for fifteen to twenty minutes, or until the salmon appears light pink and easily separates. Set aside and let it cool completely.
As the salmon cools, prepare the rice. In a medium sized pot, heat water on HIGH until it begins to boil. Stir in sushi rice, then reduce the heat to MEDIUM. Cover with a well fitting lid and let the water continue to simmer, removing rice from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Once some of the water has been absorbed (about two minutes), stir and reduce the heat to LOW and return the pot lid, cooking the rice until it is light and fluffy.
Sushi rice needs to be very hot to achieve the stickiness needed for molding. Maybe not as hot as I prefer to keep it, but I’m a “better safe than sorry” type. It’s frankly disheartening to have a half warmed rice ball fall apart in your hands. I suggest preparing a water bath to cool your hands in between each rice ball. Fill your sink with water and place a salt shaker nearby. Before each ball, wet your hands in the bath, then salt them. This will diffuse the heat and prevent the rice from sticking to your hands (while also seasoning the rice).
Using a one cup dry measuring cup, scoop out a ball of hot cooked rice, and place your in your hands. Then, using quick movements and applying light pressure, roll into the rough semi-firm shape of a sphere. Use a thumb to create an indentation in the center and place a grape-sized piece of salmon inside. Close over the hole with surrounding rice then continue to pack firmly into a ball.
When fully formed into shape, attach a strip of seaweed to bottom and let cool before serving. To store your onigiri for later servings, wrap tightly in Saran Wrap. Use a seasoned seaweed strip instead of a regular one to add a little extra flavor. I like the teriyaki flavored kind. You can also roll your onigiri in furikake or sesame seeds. If using furikake, you can coat your hands with it during the rolling process so it distributes throughout the rice.
Developing an instinct for cooking perfect rice can be hard. Personally, it took me years to figure out. But if you start out with these tips you can spare yourself a lot of time and pain.
You should always place the rice in the pot once the water has already begun to boil, and never while the water is still cold. When you first put it in, the steam from the boiling water will cause it to clump and stick together. Break up the grains with a bamboo spoon before covering the pot with a lid (bamboo tends to resist stickiness better than other materials, like metal). Then check back every few minutes to stir and pull the rice up from the sides and bottom. This will allow the heat to distribute evenly and the water will boil more uniformly across the pot. As the rice absorbs more water, you can reduce the heat to prevent scorching. By the time the rice has slightly softened (about two minutes of boiling), you should be able to turn the heat down to LOW. Leave the lid on to retain the heat and the rice will continue to absorb the water until there is no more.
If for some reason you did not add enough water to the pot and your rice is stiff and undercooked, simply add 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60-120 ml) of water, cover with a lid, and cook on LOW until all the water is absorbed.
Fully cooked rice will be fluffy in appearance and consistency once stirred with bamboo stirring spoon.
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Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.