Sushi vs Onigiri: Similarities and Differences
– They’re both made from rice and ingredients. Sushi ingredients are called “neta”.
– Sushi is also called by the name “nigirizushi” (nigiri meaning “hand-formed”) and both are “nigiri”. As such, the basic cooking technique for both of them is forming them in your hands. Also, they both require that you don’t squeeze too tightly and they’re best made so that they naturally come apart inside your both.
– They use ingredients with sterilizing properties in order to keep for a long time. For sushi, it’s vinegar and ginger (shoga), and even wasabi has these properties. Wasabi is thought of as an indispensable ingredient now but in the beginning it was used to keep things lasting longer. For onigiri (Japanese rice balls), ingredients like umeboshi (dried plums) are used. Onigiri use a lot of salty ingredients because they go well with rice but also sterilize. By the way, the salt on onigiri basically has no sterilizing effects.
– Vinegar is used on sushi rice, salt is used for onigiri.
– A long time ago, sushi was a high-class treat and onigiri was considered home-cooking.
– Unlike sushi, onigiri is strongly thought of as a portable food, similar to bento. For that reason, the ingredients are set inside the rice to make them easier to eat. On the other hand, sushi—with its history as high-class—is not seen that way. As such, the neta are set on top and a lot of time is spent on meticulously arranging them. Chirashi-sushi is a good example of an arrangement where you can see the neta. Even with temaki sushi (hand-rolled sushi) and norimaki (California rolls), they’re made so you can see the neta. There are basically no sushi varieties where the neta isn’t visible.
– Sushi is meant to be eaten in a single bite. On the other hand, you’d be hard-pressed to find an onigiri that could be taken in one bite. This is related to them being portable foods and it being inconvenient to have to carry many of them around.
Sushi and onigiri represent Japanese food. In recent years, sushi has been made cheaper with places like conveyor belt sushi and new kinds of onigiri are sold at convenience stores. In both cases, they’re diversifying and leaving their mark.