A Taste of Nice Rice

Oori treats the masses to Korean rice triangles.


Photo by Lori Eanes

You know how it goes. You saunter down Solano Avenue, thinking you know all there is to know about Asian rice triangles.

They’re wrapped in toasted nori, you tell yourself smugly. They’re stuffed with short-grain steamed rice and maybe something else: meat, say, or pickled plums. They’re called omusubi or onigiri. Those are Japanese words. Why? Because Asian rice triangles, you tell yourself, are Japanese.

Ha ha! Sometimes they’re not!

Korea has rice triangles, too. Called gimbap—because gim is Korean for nori and bap is Korean for rice—they could easily be mistaken for their Japanese cousins. Made to order and served warm (with white or brown rice) at Oori, which opened this summer in the Albany space formerly occupied by Sophia Cafe, they sport fusiony, foodie-magnet filling choices such as baked organic tofu; grilled wild-caught salmon with edamame purée; chicken teriyaki with avocado purée; grilled pork with spicy marinade and edamame purée; and grilled short rib with Korean-barbecue marinade.

Oori’s crab triangles are made with lemon aioli and masago, or capelin-fish roe. Albacore tuna-aioli triangles are made with miso and masago. At Oori, they don’t skimp on the protein.

“Rice triangles are very popular in Korea, where they’re sold in convenience stores and in restaurants like ours, and where you can find all kinds of takes on them,” says Oori’s co-owner Chris Kim, who initially whetted East Bay appetites by selling gimbap at the Lafayette and Castro Valley farmers’ markets and at UC Berkeley campus cafés.

One of Oori's tastiest fillings is mild baek kimchi, Korean for “white kimchee.”

“It’s what my wife and I always choose whenever we eat rice triangles at home,” Kim says.

Garlicky and tangy but unspicy, it lets you actually savor its crunchy, cabbagey sourness.

“Oori means ‘us’ or ‘community’ in Korean, and we felt that it was a good fit for the food we were offering: high-quality ingredients with no preservatives, MSG, or high-fructose corn syrup,” Kim explains. “It’s food that we would feed our family and friends. It’s food that we feel good about serving to our community.”

Oori, 1247 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-526-8663, www.OoriFoods.com

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