In winter in Japan, at your local 7/11 or any other convenience store which you have on every other corner, they bring out a special corner for Oden. A stew of various items in dashi stock. Each item is usually less than a dollar and you get piping hot soup to go with it so it’s a favorite of mine. A shop called Nigi Nigi on the busiest intersection in brisbane CBD, corner of Adelaide and Edward, originally opened to try to introduce onigiri, Japanese rice balls which are much more popular than sushi rolls in Japan.
A bit of background. The difference between the two is that sushi is made with vinegared rice and onigiri with normal rice. Also onigiri often is offered with a separately wrapped nori so nori stays crispy. I think the point about onigiri and why it sells so well in Japan is that the suppliers go thru a tremendous amount of effort to prepare the perfect rice, supple yet sticky and soft in the mouth. The contents such as salmon etc are important too but this is a differentiating factor once the base qualification of perfect rice is cleared. When you add vinegar, inferior rice also sticks well and it masks the inherent sweetness of the rice. I think the Japanese people when they eat rice, want a clear natural taste and texture more than anything else and this is perhaps the reason why onigiri sells more than sushi rolls and vice versa in Brisbane. In Brisbane sushi rolls seem to be evaluated based on the contents and many times too often I am let down by the inferior quality of the rice. But the brisbane public dont seem to mind. This is not meant as a disrespectful comment to brisbane but an inevitable fact as only in Japan we grew up with japanese rice which has its own set of standards auch as stickyness, sweetness, firmness, amino acid content etc, and we have grown to be really big headed critics when it comes to rice. I think Nigi Nigi are doing a good job but feel they will struggle to sell the concept of onigiri and rice to the Brisbane public.
Perhaps a wise move and happily for me, they have now added Oden and Nikuman to their line up. Sampled the daikon radish, veg filled moneybag, cuttlefish fish cake and atsuage fried tofu the other day. Went again today for more! getting egg, edamame fish cake, and tofu fish cake. all items ranging around a dollar, really cheap. Good warming authentic Japanese snack. Hope this one catches on in Brisbane.
Also sampled the nikuman (steamed buns). They looked like they were sourced locally from a Chinese supplier the BBQ pork buns being the kind with the red looking interior giving a peek from the crack in the buns. So I tried to choose a Japanese looking one, pork and cabbage bun. It was pretty good.