Afternoon Snack: Onigiri at YaYa Tea Garden

Afternoon Snack

Quick bites to tide you over without spoiling dinner.

It's late afternoon and dinner is a few hours away. Where do you get a quick bite to carry you through the day? Afternoon Snack looks at quick bites to tide you over without spoiling dinner. Got a snack we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

For the last couple of weeks I've been seriously hooked on the onigiri, or Japanese rice balls, from YaYa Tea Garden in Chinatown. I'd even go so far as to call them my new go-to neighborhood snack spot, which says something in this snacker's playground (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C). A meager $2 to $4 (large and small sizes available) buys you a more than satisfying, not at all greasy ball of rice, seaweed, and your choice of filling. Oh, and they're made fresh to order, warm and plenty aromatic.

A simple seaweed and radish filling may be my favorite, but the shrimp tempura, which has a bit of warm mayo for good measure, is pretty excellent. (Soy sauced fried chicken with lovely crisp skin is also a winner.) Take note of the clever packaging, which keeps the seaweed wrapper segregated from the rice so it says nicely crisp and pliant. There are instructions in the store on how to unwrap and assemble your onigiri, but if you want more, check out this step by step guide.

YaYa Tea Garden

51 Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10002 (map) 212-226-8803