The onigiri boom in Paris!

Japan Stories

31st October, 2022

homemade onigiri

Sushi is the most famous Japanese dish among foreigners. It holds the first place on the podium of Japanese restaurants in Paris. Then there is ramen, and more recently, a new type has appeared. This is onigiri, rice dumplings with various foods. 
Thus, the popularity of Japanese food continues unabated. On the contrary, the popularity of Japanese food is increasing thanks to the growing diversity of culinary styles.  

Sushi and ramen can be prepared at home, but require a lot of preparation and expertise. Indeed, most of the time, these are dishes that are eaten in restaurants. 
Onigiri, on the other hand, is an authentic taste of home. It is prepared by the parents or grandmother and is a childhood favourite for all Japanese. Each family has its own recipe, and despite the frequency of its appearance, the Japanese never tire of it. So much so that ongiri can be eaten at any time of the day: for breakfast, as a snack, at lunch or as a complement to dinner. 
It is these onigiri that are now in vogue in Paris.

Previously, in France, onigiri was known only to a small number of French people and was considered a "triangular food" appearing in manga and anime.
However, when onigiri began to be sold in the Opera district of Paris, their popularity grew slowly but surely. Today, specialised shops have sprung up, and people queue up at lunchtime.
In supermarkets such as MONOPRIX, onigiri are presented as "Japanese sandwiches" and are present in the snack section.

Nevertheless, this market still seems to be reserved for insiders in the capital. 
Why in Paris? Two arguments can be raised.

Firstly, the rice in onigiri is gluten-free. Secondly, by choosing the right ingredients, they are perfectly suited to a vegan diet. For health-conscious Parisians, onigiri is a healthy food in the air of time. As proof, onigiri are particularly appreciated by the fashion world and are even served at fashion shows.

Secondly, the simplicity of eating them (they are eaten without cutlery, like sandwiches) and their clever packaging, which means you don't have to get your hands dirty, make these rice balls both a quick and practical snack.

The onigiri thus not only provides a complete meal with starch, animal or vegetable protein and vegetables, but also allows you to eat in a jiffy. It is a response to the reality that people do not always have the time or the means to go to a restaurant.  

Onigiri first appeared on the right bank in Paris, but last October, two restaurants opened successively on the left bank. 

The new O-Komé restaurant in the 6th arrondissement is run not by a Japanese but by a Frenchman. Gilles Oriol lived in Japan for his professional activity and became fascinated by Japanese gastronomy. He was particularly won over by the flavour of rice and subsequently realised the importance of gastronomy in Japanese culture. He realised that rice is intimately linked to the Japanese spirit and decided to import it from Niigata. 

By offering quality rice, Gilles Loriol is introducing Parisians to onigiri. Japanese aficionados are crazy about it and others are curious. Some wonder if it is sweet or salty. In the end, the reaction is very positive. 

Even in Paris, where many cultures and religions coexist, onigiri has been able to make its way easily. Careful presentation is essential, but its potential remains high.

The Renard café, located in the fifth arrondissement, is a place that offers both onigiri, pastries and Japanese drinks and the reading of Japanese manga. It is so popular that, even in cold and rainy weather, there is a long queue. 

Its parent store is Le Renard Doré, a bookshop specialising in manga in the same neighbourhood, where you can buy literature, stationery, merchandise and so much more. 

As the French become more and more familiar with Japanese food, they tend to become more and more demanding. Onigiri, perfectly adapted to the needs of Parisians, seem to be doing very well. The quest for authenticity may make these simple rice balls an iconic Japanese food in the very near future!  

O-Komé onigiri

34 Rue Dauphine, 75006 Paris

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