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Ehime Prefecture on the western coast of Shikoku is known all through Japan for its tasty mikan, or satsuma oranges. Although the fruit is delicious enough on its own, the people of Ehime love to think up new ways to enjoy the fresh taste of a local orange. In the past, we have seen funny-shaped oranges and even citrus-flavored fish, but now there’s a new way to get some vitamin C in your life: orange-flavored rice balls.

We dropped by a shop near the hot springs that inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away which sells the rice balls. But these little delicacies are only available for a limited time, so click below to find out more about this surprisingly delicious culinary creation!

This isn’t the first time Ehime has thought about putting oranges in their rice, apparently some lucky kids are served rice cooked with fresh-squeezed satsuma juice as part of their school lunch for a special treat. This interesting rice habit has been reported in Japanese media where audiences were pretty shocked to see what Ehime is putting in their rice!

Recently, a shop near the famous Dogo Onsen hot springs in Matsuyama City started to sell special “Original Satsuma Rice Balls” and needless to say we had to check it out.

“Dogo Tamaya,” the souvenir shop near the hot springs where you can find out how well oranges and rice mix

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The rice balls on display with a sign boasting “bloggers and Twitter users say we’re delicious!”

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The rice balls are pretty much exactly what they sound like, rice flavored with locally grown oranges rolled up into a ball. At first look, they even look like a little orange. The rice balls are about the size of a satsuma and even have a real leaf attached to the top.

▼ One of these rice balls fits nicely into the palm of your hand, almost like a real Ehime satsuma

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▼ A genuine orange leaf is attached to the packaging of each rice ball

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So far the presentation was great for these little rice balls. It’s hard to get much cuter than a rice ball packaged up to look like an orange. But the time of judgement came—would the taste of rice and the tartness of an orange go together? The rice had such an orange tint and it was hard to believe that the tartness and acidity of an orange would translate well to rice.

▼ The rice ball smelled like freshly squeezed orange juice as soon as it was unwrapped

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▼ Breaking apart the rice ball, you can see there is some chicken and fried tofu mixed in

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Taking a few nibbles of the rice ball was a huge surprise for the tongue. First, there was the familiar taste of rice and then an intense blast of orange. Something about the sourness, sweetness and bitterness of the area’s famed satsumas really mixed well with the rice. It almost tasted like the rice was cooked with bits of the peel to give it that really strong citrus flavor. The chicken and the tofu pieces were actually pretty bland and the satsuma flavor takes over the whole rice ball.

The rice ball ultimately won us over and we definitely recommend you to try it out if your travels take you to the west end of Shikoku. The rice balls are only available for as long as they have enough satsumas, so make those travel plans ASAP. And since it’s a seasonal item, the price of one of these little treats can actually move around.

Does the idea of an orange-flavored rice ball make you drool or would you rather keep these two foods separate? Let us know in the comments below what you think of this Ehime speciality! 

Shop info
Dogo Tamaya
Address: 6-13 Dogo-Yunomachi Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture
Hours: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM, 7 days a week

Photos: RocketNews24