Nasi Biryani Onigiri Recipe

Updated: May 25, 2019

Nasi Biryani Onigiri

A fusion of two iconic comfort foods, Nasi Biryani and Onigiri. Both hero the rice for opposite reasons. A good Biryani has to have each grain of rice, separate. A good Onigiri needs to be slightly sticky but not gooey. This was a really fun concept to mess around with: “what is, what should be and what can be!”

Nasi Biryani is a fragrant, delicious rice dish flavoured with earthy spices, rose or kewra water. Usually made with meat to give body and protein, this Biryani is made with hearty vegetables like Kinky (curly) Kale from and Young Jack (fruit) from The chosen vegetable combination provides more than what any meat would have to offer. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense food of the world and the Kinky is light, slightly sweet with a hint of lemon zest. Young Jack (fruit) in brine is a low glycemic, easy to use vegan meat substitute that is perfect to carry the biryani flavours.

But I wanted to add some more nutrition and balance to the traditional dish. So I added Pumpkin & Corn sauce from that has Pumpkin, Carrots, Corn, Onion, Celery & herbs all in a ready to use paste without any preservatives, sugar or salt. How convenient and healthy! A Nasi Biryani has raisins, this version has it too but I still felt it needed a dash of honey, so I used Cradle Mountain Organic Leatherwood Honey from

Nasi Biryani Onigiri with Kinky Kale and Young Jack (fruit)

Sushi rice is the only rice you can use to make onigiri. You can make it healthier by using half-n-half of white and brown rice. There are some key techniques to be followed while cooking this but is hardly a challenge. The sushi rice is mixed with bloomed Saffron threads, kewra, rose water. The saffron hues the onigiri a beautiful yellow and the flower waters complete the beautiful flavours of a biryani.

This dish will appeal to the traditional at heart and at the same time strike a chord with the trendy-new. Nasi Biryani Onigiri is an eat-on-the-go-food-snack that is healthy, high in protein, fibre, nutrients, flavour and texture.

Enough talk. Come, lets us get right into the recipe.

There are 3 parts to the recipe. First, the Nasi Biryani Kale and Young Jack (fruit) filling. Second, the Saffron and flower water Onigiri. Third, the assembly on the dish.

Nasi Biryani Onigiri with Saffron, Kewra and Rose water

Ingredients for the Kale, Jackfruit Biryani filling:

7 pieces Young Jack (fruit) in brine 5 pieces chopped

7 large Kinky Kale Leaves, destemmed and then chopped

1 tbsp Tomato Paste/Concentrate

1 tbsp Pumpkin & Corn sauce

1/3 tsp Cradle Mountain Organic Leatherwood Honey

1 big Red onions minced/chopped fine

1 tsp Fresh Ginger ground to a paste

1 tsp Fresh Garlic ground to a paste

1 tsp Green Chilli chopped fine

7 Cashew Nuts ground to a paste with a little water

1/4 tsp *Star Anise Powder

1/4 tsp *Cinnamon Powder

1/4 tsp *Cloves Powder

1/4 tsp *Black Pepper Powder

1 tsp *Fennel Powder

1/4 tsp Cardamom Powder

1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder

1/4 tsp Nutmeg Powder

2 tsp Coriander Powder

2 tsp Red Chilli Powder

1 Mace

1 Bayleaf

2 tbsp Olive Oil (not virgin)

1/4 cup water

Salt to taste

1/3 tsp Honey

*Instead of using all these spice powders you can substitute with 3/4 tsp of a good quality 5 Spice Powder.

Process for the Kale, Jackfruit Biryani filling:

Note: Kinky kale from Sustenir does not need to be washed, but they need to be destemmed. Just peel the leaves from the stem, discard the stems and chop the leaves. Young Jackfruit from Karana needs to be drained from the bottle and washed throughly soaking it in fresh water.

Marinate the chopped kale and young jackfruit with 1/2 tsp of ginger, 1/2 tsp of garlic and 1/2 tsp chopped green chilli for 30 minutes.

Take a wide frying pan, add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Let it come up to heat. Then add the minced/chopped onions and fry it till it browns. Add the remainder 1/2 tsp of ginger, 1/2 tsp of garlic, 1/2 tsp green chilli and fry it further. Add the marinated kale and young jackfruit to the pan and fry it for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and the pumpkin & corn sauce to the cooking mixture and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add the bay leaf, mace. Add the star anise, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, fennel, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg powders. Toss to mix in the pan. Add 2 tsp each of the coriander and red chilli powder. Toss to mix all the spices in the pan. Add the cashew nut paste, salt and the water. Cover and let it cook on low flame for 5 minutes. Ensure all the water is dried out and it is a fairly thick paste like mixture with chunks of kale and jackfruit. Add 1/3 tsp honey, mix well and let the mixture cool down completely.

Ingredients for the Saffron, Rose, Kewra water Onigiri:

1 cup White Sushi rice

1 cup Brown Sushi rice

1 Cinnamon Stick (2 inches long)

1 Star Anise (whole, not powdered)

1 Bay Leaf (whole, not powdered)

2 Cloves (whole, not powdered)

5 Cardamom pods (whole, not powdered)

1 Mace (whole, not powdered)

5 Black Peppercorns (whole, not powdered)

1/8 tsp Saffron Strands

1 tbsp Kewra Water

1 tsp Rose Water

1 tsp of Himalayan Pink Salt

3 cups of Water

Process for the Saffron, Kewra, Rose water Onigiri:

Wash the Brown Sushi rice first. To do that take a cup worth of Brown Sushi Rice in a bowl and cover with water. Massage the grains well between your fingers and palm. Throw out all the starchy water. Repeat the process for two more times. Ideally the water should run clean if you fill the bowl the fourth time, if not repeat the process another time. Drain, fill the rice bowl with fresh water and let it soak for 60 minutes.

30 minutes after you did the above process, wash the White Sushi Rice. To do that you essentially need to do the same process as the Brown Sushi Rice. Massage, wash off 3 times. It should run clear the fourth time, if not repeat the process another time. Drain, fill the rice bowl with fresh water and let it soak for 30 minutes.

After another 30 minutes (now the Brown Sushi rice has soaked for 60 minutes, White Sushi rice for 30 minutes) drain off all the water. In a large sauce pan, add the soaked Brown and White Sushi rice. Add 1 tsp of Himalayan Pink Salt, Cinnamon Stick, Star Anise, Bay Leaf, Cloves, Cardamom pods, Mace and Black Peppercorns. Let the water come to a roaring boil. Lower the flame. Take a tbsp of the hot boiling rice water into a bowl. Then turn down the flame/heat to the lowest setting, cover and cook for 12-13 minutes.

Add the Saffron threads to the bowl in which you reserved a tbsp of the hot water from the boiling rice. Let it bloom, that means the water will turn nice yellow with those orange strands becoming soft.

After the rice has cooked for 13 minutes on low flame, lift the lid, scrape the bottom of the rice pan to see if all the water has evaporated. If no, let it cook covered for another minute. If yes, turn off the flame/heat completely. Pour over all the bloomed Saffron water and strands, Kewra and Rose water. Cover the pan and the rice will fluff up more in the steam present.

After 10 minutes the Onigiri rice is ready. Fish out the Cinnamon Stick, Star Anise, Bay Leaf, Cloves, Cardamom pods, Mace and Black Peppercorns. Mix the rice gently with a fork.

Reuse Note: You can wash the removed Cinnamon Stick, Star Anise, Bay Leaf, Cloves, Cardamom pods, Mace and Black Peppercorns from the Rice. They have done their job for this dish but done with their flavours. Put the washed spices into a tea bag, keep in your chiller and use for your next soup dish.

Ingredients for the assembly:

1 Onigiri Mould (available in all Diaso, Japanese home stores in Singapore)

7 Cashew Nuts

21 Golden Raisins

Process for the assembly:

Take a cleaned Onigiri mould. There are two parts to it. The top cover and bottom cover.

Put around 1 to 2 tsp of the Saffron rice in the bottom of the mould. Add I tsp of the Biryani filling. Make sure it is in the center. Add one cashew nut and 3 small raisins. Top it with 1 to 2 tsp of the rice. Take the top part of the mould. Fit it in and press the rice gently to form into the said shape of the mould, a triangle. Then gently remove the top cover of the mould. Turn it over gently in your hands and push it out gently from the center to wedge it out. Serve at room temperature. EAT.

Perfect for a picnic.

Happy Makan!

Food Photography:

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