Coolest Part About Japanese Rice Balls: The Packaging

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Coolest Part About Japanese Rice Balls: The Packaging

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Anybody who's ever popped open a bottle of Ramune knows that the Japanese are masters at ingenious packaging. Take, for example, onigiri (aka musubi)—the triangular balls of seasoned rice that were a staple of every childhood road trip. My grandmother would pack a box full of them, sometimes stuffed with umeboshi (tart and salty pickled plums), sometimes with a little hunk of tarako (salted cod roe), or sometimes just plain. We'd pick up a piece of crisp roasted nori, wrap the ball in it, and eat it as fast as possible.

The idea is that the crisp nori makes a perfect contrast against the soft, tender rice. Eating too slow can lead to papery, wet nori, which for some, will ruin the entire experience.

The question is, how do you package this snack to be sold at a convenience stores without letting the nori go soft?

The Japanese have a solution for that. Check out the slideshow for how it works »

And speaking of onigiri, who else here is a major, major, major fan of them? There have got to be at least a few rice ball fiends in the community! And is anyone else wowed by how cool this packaging is, or am I the only one?

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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