The Rice Ball- The national snack of Japan. Sold by the dozens in every convenience store in Japan, each costs about 120 yen- 140 or $1.20- $1.40. Crunchy sea weed surrounds sticky rice which then encapsulates a filling. The filling could be salmon, salmon roe, Japanese plum, pickles, Korean barbeque – or anything the maker has close by. For me, there are two mysteries to this snack, the first is the filling since I can’t read and the second is how to unwrap the rice ball without tearing the sea weed.
In the beginning, I loved the mystery that was the “reveal.” What did I get? Until I got salmon roe. Then the moment became more of a relief, “Thank God I didn’t get the salmon roe.” Realization dawned that my favorite- pickles- were only 100 yen which cut my chances of salmon roe down to zero but upped my odds of something else hard to swallow- Japanese plum or Umeboshi. Not dried or sweet but runny, salty and akin to emptying a mouthful of a sugar substitute like “Sweet and Low” in one’s mouth all at once. This flavor is a particular Japanese favorite and a classic example of an Eastern staple difficult for Westerners to stomach. I’ve now memorized the characters for “pickle” so the revelry in my game playing is somewhat diminished.
Part II of the game remains. How to open the Rice Ball? What’s so hard about it? It’s just wrapped in paper say you. Well, in order for the sea weed to remain crisp, it must remain separated from the rice, therefore, there is paper between the rice and the sea weed. When opening the rice ball, one must pull off two layers of paper – the paper surrounding the entire rice ball and the one between the rice and the sea weed – without pulling off the sea weed in the process. A rudimentary analogy would be the pulling off the tablecloth on a fully set table without upsetting the silverware and the plates. In order to demonstrate this process, I needed an able-bodied assistant capable of actually performing this amazing feat. Offspring #2 not only was capable, she had her nails done.
Step #1, Read the directions- if you’re able to decipher. Which I’m not.
Step #3- Here’s the part where I start to get confused. Locate the number and pull. Offspring #2 has this down pat. I usually pull the wrong parts. Even though I’m at Number 1, where exactly do you grab? At this point, I usually rip the sea weed in half.
Some species of fish- tastes good.