[Otsuka] Features and Recommendations of the Popular Rice Ball Shop “Bongo”

2020-09-04 PLEASURE

This post is also available in 日本語

You can buy onigiri at the convenience store or supermarket. However, the taste is noticeably better if you buy it from an onigiri shop. The majority of the onigiri are not made by machine, but rather are made one-by-one by hand, so you can enjoy a texture and taste close to that of onigiri made in a Japanese home. On this occasion, from among the numerous onigiri shops, I would like to introduce you to “Onigiri Bongo” in Otsuka, Toshima-Ku, Tokyo.

What is Onigiri Bongo?

This is a specialist onigiri shop approximately three minutes on foot from JR Otsuka station. This famous store has been loved for more than 60 years since its founding. Inside the store, there are only counter seats, and the onigiri is made after receiving orders from the customers, like in a sushi shop (takeout is also possible). For this reason, you can enjoy freshly made onigiri at this store.

Three features of this onigiri are that they are “large, with substantial filling, and warm”. They are approximately 1.5 times the size of the onigiri you purchase in a convenience store. However, as it is so light and fluffy, you can wolf it down. The filling goes right to the top, so whatever part of the onigiri that you eat, you can enjoy eating rice and the filling together.

56 types of filling on the menu

You can choose from 56 types of filling. These range from the classic “Shake” (salmon) and “Ume” (pickled plum), which have existed since ancient times, to the comparatively recent “Mentai mayonnaise” and “Buta kimchi”. It is hard to decide given such an abundance of different ingredients. During lunchtime and from 10PM, there are special set menus including miso soup with tofu.
* As of August 2020

What onigiri are recommended for foreigners?

From among the many menu items, the ones that the proprietress, Yumiko Ukon, would recommend to foreigners are the meat-based varieties, such as “Bacon” and “Kara-age” (Japanese fried chicken), and the mayonnaise types such as “Sake-mayonnaise” (salmon with mayonnaise) and “Mentai-mayonnaise” (spicy cod roe with mayonnaise). As they use foods that foreigners are familiar with eating, they are easy to eat, and very popular.

How to make Bongo onigiri

There is a distinctive way of making Bongo onigiri.

First, fill the onigiri-shaped wooden frame with rice, and put the filling in the middle.

Put rice on top of this and remove it from the wooden frame.

Press the wooden frame gently from the top of the rice.

After that, mold softly in your hands 3-4 times.
This process is the main distinctive feature of making onigiri at this store. Encasing it softly is the key to giving its fluffy texture. This is difficult for amateurs, and so this work demands practiced skill.

Finally, wrap in “Nori” (seaweed) to complete.

Tastes that change the concept of onigiri

It is said that by molding it softly, air enters and the deliciousness of each and every grain of rice stands out. In actual fact, the moment that it enters your mouth, the rice becomes loose and the sensation you have is close to one of eating from a rice bowl. This is a method of making onigiri that is difficult to imitate. I would definitely recommend trying the taste of the onigiri at this shop. Your concept of onigiri is sure to change.

We interviewed

Onigiri Bongo
1F Kaneda Bldg., 2-26-3 Kita-Otsuka, Toshima-Ku, Tokyo