Criteria: the marvelous is a mental spark created when two radically different realities make contact. For example, the sentence, “Beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” The marvelous is often accompanied by a disorienting feeling. Think of it as poetic dislocation.

Art School. What a joke, I scoffed internally, reading through yet another nonsensical assignment. Having carefully critiqued a few too many blurry photos of anonymous crowds and underexposed shots of twisted ribbons, all passed off as “art,” the concept has lost some of its original reverence in my mind. Is it “art” when something truly transcendent has been created, or merely when the perpetrator doesn’t know how to define it otherwise? Did the photographer miss the decisive moment, forcing them to slap this label of “art” on it and just keep on shooting for something better? This dismissal of all fine art will surely create a bit of dissent among the believers, but trust me: After more than four years of trying to dissect the intent of a photo containing nothing more than three blueberries lined up in a straight row on a white table, for example… You would get pretty burned out on the concept, too. (And that was one of the better ones.)

And yet, though absurd, something about the proposed definition of marvelous stuck with me, rattling around in my head. It was laughable, and yet it still resonated. Perhaps I’m guilty of my own artistic sins as well.

Dreaming of hanami as the cherry blossoms all across Japan explode in joyous whites and pinks, it’s the time of year that I miss the island nation most. Though always beautiful, the way that the delicate petals rain down through the early days of spring is unmatched in its charm. No one could sit beneath the sakura and not smile. Food is also a huge component of hanami, so it goes without saying that it’s an added attraction for me. Picnic lunches are simple, traditional, typically consisting of bento boxes or at least a few delicate triangles of onigiri.

That’s where the marvelous struck me, insidious thing that it is, and suddenly it made perfect sense of add some middle eastern flair to this beautiful mental image. Mujaddara, one of my favorite dishes of savory spiced rice, tender lentils, and sweet caramelized onions took root in my mind and could not be shaken. Why? The only common element to unite them was rice, and that connection was tenuous at best. Just to prove myself wrong and get back to more time-honored hanami dishes, I went ahead and committed this crazy culinary mash-up. Sticky rice swapped for the fluffier long grains, the rest simply fell in place.

And can I tell you something, honestly? The results were pretty damn marvelous.

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 – 2 Dozen Onigiri

Mujaddara Onigiri

Mujaddara Onigiri

Mash up Middle Eastern mujaddara and Japanese onigiri to create something truly marvelous. Savory spiced rice, tender lentils, and sweet caramelized onions take the shape of triangles, perfect for packed lunches or picnics.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 1 1/2 Cups Sushi Rice
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Onions, Chopped (About 4 Cups Chopped)
  • 3/4 – 1 Teaspoon Salt, Divided
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 2 Cups Cooked Brown Lentils


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat on the stove. Once at a lively bubble, stir in the sushi rice and immediately reduce the heat all the way to low. Cover and let cook gently for 15 – 20 minutes, until the water has been fully absorbed. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet with high sides over moderate heat. When hot and shimmering, add the onions and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. When they begin to brown around the edges, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and reduce the heat further.
  3. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring every now and then, for about an additional 30 minutes to caramelize the onions. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly to prevent pieces from sticking and burning. The onions should take on a deep amber brown color at this point, and a be very aromatic. Remove the pan from the heat, mix in the balsamic vinegar and all the spices, and let cool.
  4. When both the rice and onions are cool enough to handle, just above room temperature, mix both together in a large bowl along with the parsley and lentils. Stir well to thoroughly distribute all of the ingredients. Add remaining 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to taste.
  5. Scoop out approximately 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the mixture for each onigiri, gently pressing it into triangles in the palms of your hands. If the rice isn’t quite holding together properly, let it sit and continue to cool for a bit longer. Serve immediately, or wrap each individually in plastic to save for later. When properly stored in the fridge, the prepared onigiri can be reserved for up to three days.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 63Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 109mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 2g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

29 thoughts on “Marvelous

  1. Mujadara is one of those classic Middle Eastern recipes that is waaaaay more than the sum of its parts. Thanks for sharing this perfect recipe!

  2. This dish sounds very delicious. I hope to try this the next time I go grocery shopping for some rice, I notice that I already have most of these ingredients at home.
    I also understand what you mean about people labeling things as art.

  3. I love the shape of these delicious little mouthfuls Hannah :). That would make them taste all the more wonderful and looking at the list of ingredients I already know that they will be amazing. I agree with your comments about what is and isn’t “art”…we are taking a course in Media design and I can’t believe what some people are trying to pass off as “art” ;). No blueberries on a fuzzy ribbon yet but I am sure that if they think about it, it will come! ;) (here’s hoping none of them read your blog!)

      1. That’s the reason why I have curiously omitted to add Serendipity Farm to our communal “artsy” blog lists ;)

  4. Hannah, these look delicious. I’ve made the basic onigiri before but these look even better (and more nutritious.) I think our younger daughter, who visited Japan, has studied Japanese for many years and is also in art school ( BWG) would love them, too. I agree that many things considered art don’t strike me as such and I spend very little time in the modern areas of art museums. However, our daughter, after much thought and study and above schools in Paris and London, chose Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, as the school for her as they teach from a classical background and have one of the only cast halls left in art schools. So there is some hope on that front. :-)

    Always enjoy visiting and chatting,


  5. I love how you’ve essentially fused two very different cultures in this dish! If that isn’t art, I’m not sure what is!

  6. Hannah, I noticed that you even changed your banner to sakuras… I love this recipe and so perfectly shaped are your onigiri’. Did you use one of those devices to make them identical shaped and size. I think you are artsy and these are hand made- well done! I lived in Japan before HK and onigiris were a big part of my boys diet and one full of different flavors and with Indian spices is a warm welcome. Take Care, BAM

  7. My, my! these onigiri looks fabulous! love how you gave them a new breath of life with lentils and cumin!
    Pls send some over. I would very much love to have this for lunch!

  8. YES! Thank You!

    “The onions should take on a deep amber brown”

    My wife always thinks I’m burning the onions when I do this. I’m so glad you worded it that way. I LOVE carmelized onions in things.

    I’m making this tonight – and following you’re instructions to the letter. :)

  9. Haha, yeah, art classes (and programs) have some pretty heady/silly parts. Getting a MFA in poetry certainly got me over a lot of that. Like, seriously ya’ll, just write a poem.

    As for the onigri/mujaddarra mash up, totally perfect! Love the balance of the form & flavors.

  10. This looks and sounds amazing!! I’ve been looking for alternative recipes for dinner and haven’t had much like with meals that my kids would enjoy as much as me… but this is something they would enjoy!

  11. I had to print this one out as it will make an appearance on our Easter table. Love the lentil – rice combo.

  12. Nice! Today would be a perfect day for onigiri under the cherry trees– they are in full bloom here and it’s a clear, warm, sunny day (and you know how rare those are in Seattle!). I wasn’t familiar with mujaddara until I read your post, but it sounds like a very good vegan dish to know.

  13. Whoa this is such a genius combination! I love onigiri, but I’d worry that with this version, it’d be even harder to get it to stick together perfectly because of the lentils, but actually it looks so perfect & tempting!

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