Shop 17, 261 Warrigal Road, Eight Mile Plains
When I first heard about Nikumaki Honpo, I was immediately intrigued. It's only been mentioned in a few Brisbane food blogs but it has rave reviews on Urbanspoon. It's in no way a restaurant or even an eatery, merely a small shop in Warrigal Square that sells rice balls.
The more I read about the rice balls, the better they sounded. Wrapped in marinated pork and topped with molten cheese... it's something that is so simple that with this much positive feedback, could only be amazing.
That was a few months ago. Warrigal Square is too inconveniently placed to me for it to have been a "let's pop over there" destination. As luck would have it, my mum and dad drove there on weekend looking for another shop. A light bulb clicked. Rice balls are here! It was earlyish and the stall hadn't opened yet but I urged them to wait so we could try it.
As I expected, Nikumaki Honpo is a tiny stall amongst the outer edge of Warrigal Square shopping plaza. It sells bugger all besides the nikumaki, which a sign describes as oven-baked steamed rice balls, wrapped in marinated pork. They can be ordered plain or topped with cheese. Dad went for the plain one and I chose cheese.
The difference with the cheese nikumaki is that it is topped with the cheese, heated up until the cheese has melted and then flamed with a blowtorch until the cheese is bubbling on top.
Both nikumaki were then wrapped in paper and handed over. It was barely worth the effort because we immediately unwrapped them and ate them in the car.
I know the notion of riceballs sound unexciting or perhaps bring to mind the cold, nori-wrapped cousins of sushi. These were delicious. They were hot, for one, and the rice itself had been soaked in a broth of soy and what tasted like cooking wine. There was a hearty booziness to it. The rice wasn't mushy though and they were regular grains of rice, rather than glutinous rice like the leaf-wrapped glutinous rice pyramids that you can find in China.
Wrapped around the outside of the nikumaki were strips of thin, marinated pork that had the same savory, boozy flavor as the rice. It was really tasty. Mum was doubtful about how cheese would go with such typically oriental flavors but the chewiness of the cheese was a surprisingly good compliment. There was also a layer of marinated vegetable at the bottom but it was hardly noticeable.
Dad thought that these would be suitable snack food items when he started eating but by the end he declared that they were fit as handy takeaway meal replacements. They are surprisingly filling! It must be the bulk of rice. I would say there's a small bowlful compressed into each bowl.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the nikumaki rice balls. The flavor was strong but moreish and comforting. I can imagine these would be really nice in winter. I normally hate rice but the rice was flavored and delicious. Moreover, there's nothing else like it in Brisbane so it was great to try something new.