This onigir bento for cherry blossom viewing is the perfect spring-time recipe! The zesty-delicious goodness is sure to impress your friends and family. Bring your next picnic to life!
Cherry Blossom Onigiri Bento
Japanese people, and most people that visit Japan in Spring become fanatical about cherry blossom season. When the entire country turns pink with cherry flowers, it’s time to get out and admire the beauty – Hanami.
And what better way to do it than with this simple fresh picnic onigiri bento box?
Cherry blossom viewing or hanami has been adored and cherished since ancient times in Japan. Check out Japan’s oldest (8th century!) poetry “Manyoshu“.
For Andy and me, hanami means cherry blossom bento box to share with family and friends. A lot of rice balls – onigiri – are the perfect option. While hanami should be experienced at last once, don’t worry, this recipe is perfect for any spring, summer or autumn picnic.
This onigiri bento recipe is made with salted cherry blossoms – one bite of these and it was instant love for me
About this Onigiri Bento for Hanami
Japanese people have loved cherry blossoms since the ancient time. Beyond loving and admiring their beauty, they preserved their memories by pickling cherry blossoms.
You heard it right, cherry blossoms can be made edible!
Yes! They have made cherry blooms edible!
Pickled cherry blossoms are salted and soaked with plum vinegar. They’re served for special occasions as tea by adding hot water. When lovers decide to get married, their families get together. They enjoy cherry blossom tea.
My mother told me about this tradition. Sharing this Cherry onigiri rice recipe and eating edible cherry blossoms are meant to celebrate life’s beauty together.
Rice: Japanese short grain rice. It should be soaked at least one hour before it’s cooked.
Pickled Cherry Blossoms: It is unfortunately difficult to do homemade picked cherry blossoms. I usually buy at Japanese grocery shops in town or online. Just One Cookbook kindly shows where to buy them at the online store for pickled cherry that ships internationally.
Sea Salt: For making onigiri, rice balls, sea salt is your friend!
Vegetables for topping: I used broccoli, yuzu and chestnut. Yuzu can be replaced by lemon. I selected these vegetables to express the feelings of Spring.
Umeboshi: Pickled plum, ume. Umeboshi is one of Japan’s power foods. This is optional but if you have, you can add it inside of cherry blossom onigiri bento for a delightful surprise. It is a regular ingredient for rice balls in Japan. You can find it at Japanese grocery shop.
How to Make Onigiri Bento for Hanami
Soak salted cherry blossoms in water to remove salt. Drain water.
After draining water,dry cherry flowers on a clean cotton.
Japanese grain rice should be soaked in water for more than an hour before it’s cooked. Soak pickled cherry flowers in water, and drain. Remove water with a clean cotton towel.
Cook rice, and allow to sit for 5 minutes to steam. While it’s still hot, make onigiri. After the rice is cooled down, it gets difficult to make a ball.
Put water into a container, and use for dipping your hands. This way the rice doesn’t stick to your hands as much. Add sesame seeds, sea salt and umeboshi separately while you make onigiri. I love this process and you will too!
Toast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan. As soon as the seeds make a splitting cracking noise, take them off the heat. The toasty, sesame smell is so good! Keep the sesame seeds and sea salt separate while you shape the onigiri – rice balls!
Onigiri Bento for Cherry Blossom Viewing
- 540 g Japanese rice
- 1 tbsp pickled cherry blossoms
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp broccoli
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp sweetened chestnut (optional)
- 3 umeboshi (pickled plum)
- 1 yuzu (or lemon: optional)
- Soak rice in water for an hour before cooking. Then cook the rice.
- Add water into a bowl. Put salt and sesame seeds onto small plates separately. Keep them all in your working distance.
- Make the onigiri while the rice is still hot. Otherwise it is very difficult to roll into balls. First, wet your hands. This prevents your hands from getting sticky. With your wet right hand, place two fingers into the salt and deposit on your left hand. Repeat this with sesame seeds.
- Place small amount of rice into your left hand for the onigiri. Put a piece of umeboshi into the center of the rice. Gently roll rice in your left hand, so that it absorbs the salt and sesame seeds onto the outside of the rice ball. Don't push rice too tightly together as it will get too hard and won't be tasty.
- If rice is getting sticky, or your hands get too hot, use water in the bowl. At the beginning, eat one rice ball and check out whether the amount of salt and sesame seeds are enough for you. Add more salt and sesame seeds if desired.
- Place rice balls into a bento box. Add cherry blossom flowers on top of them. Gently push the flowers to stick them onto rice balls.
- Decorate onigiri with sliced yuzu (or lemon), broccoli or chestnut.