Rice balls are fun to make and fun to eat. Fill them with shrimp, avocados, and carrots for a tasty treat, or add your own favorite fillings.
Rice balls are like sushi except that they’re made into balls instead of rolled in a sushi mat and cut. I saw some in a magazine and knew that I had to make some. I’ve been on a roll lately with hand-made food like date nut nuggets and chocolate energy bites. These rice balls are not sweet like those two, but they do make you get your hands messy. I hope you’ll dig in and make some of these fun snacks.
I used these ingredients to make the rice balls: sushi rice, Wakame seaweed, avocados, carrots, shrimp, and optional umeboshi, or salted Japanese plum paste. I ran across a mention of this plum paste online and I couldn’t wait to try it out. It’s available in Asian markets or on Amazon. It’s not required but it’s an interesting addition to these rice balls. But go easy with it because it’s super-salty. The avocados, carrots, shrimp are things that we like. Some other options include bits of cucumber and crab meat.
Making Rice Balls
Start by cooking the sushi rice. Other types of rice aren’t as sticky so, to ensure success, only use sushi rice. Cook it according to package instructions or do it the way I do and use an Instant Pot. Whichever way you cook it, let it cool for a few minutes and then add the rice vinegar and white wine vinegar. After you have stirred in the vinegar, let the rice rest for at least five minutes. Doing this makes the rice easier to work with.
While the rice is “resting” chop up the ingredients into small pieces and arrange them so they’ll be easy to grab and add to the rice balls.
Put a bowl of water on your prep surface. You’ll need to dip your hands in water before you start each ball. This keeps the rice from sticking to your hands. (Some will still stick, but this makes it easier to work with the rice.) Scoop out a ball of rice and use your thumb to make an impression in the rice ball. Add one piece of each kind of filling and put a little more rice on top.
Then use your hands to seal the rice ball. Keep doing this until you have used up the rice. They’ll look something like the picture below.
Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top of the rice balls for contrast.
Or roll the balls in “everything but the bagel” seasoning. I’ve seen several brands in the stores, but I used one from Trader Joes. If you don’t have a Trader Joes in your neighborhood you can order this seasoning from Amazon.
Preparation and Serving Notes
This is not a recipe that you want to prepare in a hurry. They’re fun to make in a play with your food kind of way. Your hands will have bits of rice stuck to them throughout the process, so this might not work for you if you’re an uber-neat cook. But if you set aside some time and go with the flow, you’ll wind up with a delicious appetizer, snack, or side dish – however you choose to serve it. Since the shrimp is cooked, these are good the next day, so you can pop a few in a container for lunch.
We like them dipped in ponzu sauce or our spicy peanut sauce. They’re good with pickled ginger and wasabi too.
- Rinse the sushi rice until the water going through the strainer is clear.
- Add the rice and the water to the Instant Pot.
- Set the IP on high pressure for 7 minutes.
- Let the pressure release gradually.
- Cut up your filling ingredients while the pressure is releasing.
- Put the ingredients in small bowls to make filling the rice balls easier.
- Transfer the cooked rice to a mixing bowl.
- Add the white wine and rice vinegar and stir thoroughly.
- Let the rice sit for about five minutes to make it easier to work with.
- Put a bowl of water on your prep surface to dip your hands into before starting each rice ball.
- Use a serving spoon to scoop out a ball of rice and use your thumb to make an impression in the rice ball.
- Add one piece of each kind of filling to the depression you made with your thumb.
- Add a little more rice and use your hands to seal the rice ball.
- Repeat steps 11-13 until you have used all of the rice.
- I have used both Wakame and Nori seaweed. The Nori was in sheets and I used one sheet. When I used Wakame, I just grabbed a pinch – maybe a teaspoon – and put it in a dish and added water to rehydrate it. The Wakame seaweed swells up a lot when it’s hydrated so you don’t need very much of it.
- You can soak the seaweed or put it in dry. If you use Wakame, I recommend soaking the seaweed because it will be easier to trim it to uniform sizes after it has soaked.
- You can just snip the Nori into small pieces and insert the pieces dry. The moisture of the rice and other ingredients will puff it up.
- You might want to prepare 1/4 cup of each type of filling to ensure you have enough. Whatever is left over can go in a salad or just sprinkle a little ponzu on it and eat it right away.
Products used in this recipe