Delicious, healthy Japanese rice balls filled with made from scratch ingredients.
In Japan, onigiri (rice balls) are ubiquitous, enjoyed by everyone from busy office workers to kids after school. The best way to describe an onigiri is that it’s a pressed Japanese rice ball, wrapped in nori and often filled with ingredients like cooked fish or ume, a pickled Japanese plum. It’s the traditional fast food of Japan.
But in America, onigiri is a niche item, strangely unknown in a country filled with sushi and ramen. Koji Kanematsu, the founder of Onigilly, is on a mission to change that dynamic. Originally from Japan, Koji was surprised when he arrived in California to find that onigiris were quite rare. Japanese cuisine was obviously popular, so where were the onigiris?
Sensing an opportunity to share his culture, Koji decided to start Onigilly, a restaurant that specializes in making fresh onigiri. However, business was tough in the beginning. For most Americans, traditional onigiri had too much rice and not enough filling. Adapting quickly, Koji changed up tradition by using less rice and more filling. Instead of a ball, Koji makes rice patties and stuffs them with flavorful items like spicy miso beef and snow crab. These creative Onigilly styles onigiris proved to be a hit.
Koji has big plans for Onigilly. Because of the pandemic, a few Onigilly shops were forced to close. But that doesn’t mean expansion is off the menu. Koji’s ultimate dream is for onigiri to be a common and healthy meal option throughout America. And with several soon-to-open locations in the South Bay, that dream is starting to come into reality.