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Onigiri, good for long hikes?

  • t

How long do these things stay fresh and yummy unrefrigerated? Going to an all-day hike to Half-Dome in two weeks and am looking for something to bring along other than sandwiches.

Any thoughts?

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    1. For the Half-Dome, it might depend on whch half you are ascending... if sleeping in a piton-suspended hammock from the granite face, I'd bring something else for that third-day push to the top.

      But more seriously, onigiri are the absolute classic picnic food and hiking food in Japan. There is no way to estimate the biomass of savoored then discarded umeboshi pits that are scattered amongst the rock scree on the upper slopes of Mt. Fuji.

      1. Based on my "climbing" Half Dome in 1984, and currently doing long distance cycling I would bring Gu and Balance Bars or Cliff Bars, and trail mix, and lots of water.

        I would not bring a "picnic lunch".

        I would also bring my own pair of leather gloves.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Alan408

          The back climb up Half Dome is not that strenuous. Plenty of water + the picnic lunch would be fine.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Any ideas for the picnic lunch? I was hoping for something substantial since we'll be out all day long.

            1. re: Tkn

              Classic with musubi (onigiri) are teriyaki chicken and quick Japanese cucumber pickles.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                How about Spam musubi? They keep well, and you've got protein, grain, and veggie (nori) all in one? The only thing to bring back down is the wax paper or plastic wrap...

          2. re: Alan408

            ditto on the leather gloves (bring your stickiest-sole shoes too, you might even consider wearing loose climbing shoes for the cables section). i'm fond of bringing the tiny cans of V8 juice (for a quick recharge of sodium/potassium etc) and for a special treat, a Dole plastic jar of Mandarin oranges (do'nt forget spoon)

            1. re: barleywino

              V8 sounds interesting. Will have to try that. Ditto on fruit cups though. I love those things on hiking trips and Mandarin oranges sound even better!

          3. It'll do even better if you pack the nori and rice separately. Don't wrap the rice in nori until you eat so the nori stays nice and crisp.

            6 Replies
            1. re: cimui

              Here's my favorite onigiri cartoon.
              I'm sure it will keep just fine. Enjoy!

              1. re: cimui

                I was hoping to buy these things (haven't a clue how to make 'em . . . or anything for that matter). I heard that they sell them with a plastic wrapping in between the nori and the rice and that there was some intricate way of unwrapping it all.

                1. re: Tkn

                  I just carry the rice in tupperware or saran wrap and the nori in its original package, flat against my back so it doesn't fold and crumble. When it's time to eat, break off a chunk of seasoned rice, put it to one side of the nori, and fold it into triangles. You can wrap fillings into the rice, too. Traditional fillings include ume plum paste. If you need something more filling, you could try taking one of those tuna packets with you and folding it in along with the rice.

                  1. re: cimui

                    We don't make musubi with seasoned rice, just slightly salted (from the salted water on the hands when formed).

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Clearly I don't make mine the right way, then. =) I really enjoy mine with seasoned rice (and sesame seeds), though I'm sure yours is a much healthier and more traditional option.

                  2. re: Tkn

                    You can buy onigiri with seaweed between the rice and nori at a convenience store like Famima, I believe. I'd be willing to bet you'd find them at a Marukai or Mitsuwa as well. The way you unwrap them isn't that complicated, but you may screw up your first one. There's instructions, and usually a number on each part of the triangular wrapper that denotes the order in which to remove it. We used to eat onigiri when hiking in Japan, though I was just as likely to bring along a bag of mikan or some random bread from a bakery. Have fun!

                2. Have you tried Korean Seasoned Seaweed. I have been bringing that with rice to baseball games. The seaweed is sold in pillow packs, ~10 sheets to a pack, enough for generous serving for one person. Bring some cold steamed rice and "roll your own".

                  I pay less than $2 for a three pack. Green (color) packaging.

                  Either we are thinking about a different route up Half Dome, or in my mind the hike/climb has gotten harder over the years.

                  In high school/college I climbed the Matterhorn (Sierras), Whitney and Half Dome. HD was my last climb/hike, Whitney was my last backpacking trip. I got tired of being tired.

                  Good luck to you !

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Alan408

                    The food gets better and the hikes get harder as the years go by.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Amen to that! When my friends and I went on our first backpacking trip, we'd eat saltine crackers, cheesesticks, and beef jerky thinking we were "roughing it." =)

                    2. re: Alan408

                      I like the teriyaki chicken idea (but seal it up extra tight if you don't want bears to start following you). At 16.4 miles round trip and 4800' elevation gain (topping out at 8800'), it's harder than your average weekender's dayhike, for sure...bring bananas too.

                    3. Another question is what's the best way to store them? I would have to buy the onigiris 2 days before the hike, so should I just leave them outside in a plastic grocery bag? I'm guessing that if I refrigerate them that the rice would hardened.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Tkn

                        Onigiris are great for hikes and picnics if you can get up early that morning to cook the rice. My mom would be up at the crack of dawn to make the rice. Then we make our own onigiris by washing and leaving our hands wet, rub some corse salt (some toasted sesema seeds are also nice) on the hands and then scoop up a ball of rice, patting it together to form a ball then slightly flatten it. The nori can go on right then as it will stick better to the rice while the rice is in this state. Later it will form a nice wrapping that will still have a snap when you bite into it.

                        It's amazing how good the salt and rice tastes when you're up there in the mountains. Sometimes we add fillings such as pickles, or the loose fish or pork jerkies, and of course ume, the sour plum. Some toasted peanuts on the side will go really well, too.

                        I would NOT buy onigiri 2 days ahead of the hike. If i had to bring 2-day old onigiri, it would have to be assembled and then refrigerated. Leaving it out for two days will make the rice spoil. Refrigerating it unassembled you will get hardened rice. Refrigerating it assembled it will be so so. By the way, the rice will not harden as much as the Chinese kind of rice ball would because those are made with sticky rice. The Onigiri rice is sushi rice. If it's wrapped and sealed, will be edible.

                        1. re: HLing

                          Guess I won't be bringing onigiris then. =( Unless there happens to be a Japanese supermarket near the Valley.

                          1. re: HLing

                            onigiri rice is not sushi rice. at least not traditionally. sushi rice is normally short grain rice mixed with sushizu or sushinoko or whatever crazy recipe/technique your itamae has invented or been handed down.

                            "traditionally," onigiri is made from short grain and medium grain rice, much of the time either salted or mixed with minced katsuo or sake. the ones with fish-type ingredients mixed into the rice almost never contain the more common umeboshi filling. they recently (several years ago?) started coming out with odd fillings like "tuna and mayo" or "natto and cheese" but i haven't really tried any of those.

                            if there aren't any japanese markets near you, you might try a korean market. samgak gimbap (samgak is... "three corners"? my korean sucks) are very similar to onigiri, but are usually made from unsalted rice filled with "spicy tuna," gimchi, or your regular gimbap ingredients wrapped with korean nori (gim). those don't keep very well though... i think oxidation in combination with the moisture in the rice rancidify the lipids in the sesame oil.

                            1. re: uchinanchu

                              ".....onigiri rice is not sushi rice. at least not traditionally. sushi rice is normally short grain rice mixed with sushizu or sushinoko or whatever crazy recipe/technique your itamae has invented or been handed down...."

                              Sorry, I shouldn't have use the term "sushi rice" as that was mis-leading. I meant the regular Japanese short grain rice. I think mixing any form of vinegar into it may harden the rice somewhat if it's not eaten right away.

                              We do it like the way Sam Fujisaka described below, except that the hands are wet and then coarse salt sprinkled on so that there may be some extra crunch added. And yes, with or without nori.

                        2. I am appreciating the comments of those who are sharing their "family style" methods for making onigiri, keeping it as basic and routine as "making the lunchbox sandwich" is in the traditional American household.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: FoodFuser

                            To us, musubi is cooked Japanese rice, formed hot by hands wet with salted water and possibly with ume inside; and with or without nori. Ready to eat with teriyaki chicken or beef, with pickles, with jerky, with sata-shoyu weiner slices, whatever. I worked one summer as a baker at Degnan's (1968) and another constructing the lodge (1969): we went up aftere work to the top of Half Dome a lot with light Japanese picnics.

                          2. The most important thing on that trip will be water. Bring lots (it's a hot and dry hike), and consider bringing a little extra to share since there tend to be a lot of people who are woefully unprepared and think that they can hike 16 miles with only a small bottle of soda. There's a nice flat spot before you start up the cables where you can sprawl on the rocks and have a nice picnic, but it might be a little crowded with other hikers.

                            I last climbed half dome many years ago when I was in grad school-- we climbed the face, which took around 3 days. The food of choice on "big walls" at that time was Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pasta in a can (I was partial to the beefaroni)-- high fat, high calories, small package, and edible at ambient temp. Every time I pass by the "Chef" at the grocery store, I get a little nostalgic...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: chococat

                              Good advice about the water. Other than trail mix (very filling for me), one of my faves for hiking is a small, tupperware container of cashew or almond nut butter. Spread it on bread or, if you're wheat intolerant like me, spread it on rice cakes. It's all very easy to pack and doesn't spoil easily.

                              A big hunk of cheese with flatbread, cassava bread, crackers, or pita, and some dried fruit will also last you the day. My SO likes to pack cured Italian sausages. It's not really my kind of thing, but it is high energy food.