EAT THIS: Rice Balls from Onigilly

By John Birdsall

Young dudes Kan Hasegawa and Koji Kanematsu noted Americans' bottomless appetite for the rainbow roll, but wondered why onigiri — seaweed-wrapped rice balls fused with fillings — were hard to find. So the Japanese expats gave birth to onigiri business Onigilly, nursing it to health through La Cocina's incubator program.

Onigilly's Lunch Set: chicken, eggplant, and hijiki onigiri.
John Birdsall
Onigilly's Lunch Set: chicken, eggplant, and hijiki onigiri.

Onigilly graduated to toddler steps last week, as the two soft-launched their six-day-a-week pushcart in Justin Herman Plaza, part of Rec and Park's initiative to site food vendors on city commons.

On offer recently were Onigilly's three signature rice balls ($2.75 each, or two for $5), configured in the Lunch Set ($7): one with delicious slips of hijiki soaked in sweet soy, another with mashy-textured eggplant, and a third with bits of chicken thigh turned nicely vivid from grated ginger. Also in the box: quarter-wheels of pickled daikon and firm, small-bean edamame.

Tasty. And if anyone needs convincing that mobile food has the power to enhance public spaces while giving small entrepreneurs a wheel up? Just about the best argument the city could make now sets up daily (Sundays excepted) just across the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building.

Onigilly: Justin Herman Plaza (Market and Embarcadero), Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

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