Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice

posted in: Cooking, Savory | 25

crispy tuna 

The VERY BEST THING about sushi in soCal is crispy rice topped with spicy tuna.  This is a non-debatable definitive fact.  I don’t know who originally invented this divinely-inspired dish, but it can be found at sushi-spots-in-the-know from Santa Monica to San Bernardino (ok, maybe not San Bernardino), Costa Mesa to Culver City.  If you’re in LA check it out at Katsuya or paparazzi-lovin’ Koi, but if you find yourself in Seattle, come over to my house. IT’S THE ONLY PLACE YOU’LL FIND IT IN THE 206 OR THE 425, YO! That last sentence isn’t actually verified all around town, but I’m pretty sure I make it the best since I have completed an apprenticeship as a ninja and that qualifies me to do most anything better than most anyone. 

riso fritto

An evil new friend of mine who shall remain nameless (Whitney, you know who you are) turned me on to these bundles of om nom fairly recently. I’m pretty sure she had no idea how single-minded and driven I get when I fall head-over-heartbeat in love with something, so don’t blame her for this crazed post, I take full responsibility.  Suffice it to say that for the last two weeks my kitchen has been a tossed-up warzone splattered in sashimi, soy, and various sauces whilst I tried to come up with just the right proportions to make this mellifluous mouthful chez Salty Seattle.  Leave it to me to upend one of the healthiest cuisines on the planet and slut it all up with gallons of grease and buckets of butter, by the way.  How awesome am I?

love bundles

Seriously though, if you want a new obsession make these, but if you’re thinking about bikini season rapidly approaching you may want to steer clear.  They are in my top 10 greatest food discoveries of all time, and for that I am well and truly happy.  Enough of my blathering on, here is the recipe I’ve honed and cultivated- do with it what you will. 

Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna

serves 6 as an appetizer


  • 1 lb Ahi tuna minced
  • 3 tbsp Tobiko (roe)
  • sesame oil to taste
  • Sriracha to taste
  • 2 scallions or ramps chopped ultrafine
  • 1/4 c Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise (don’t substitute, the rice vinegar in it gives a distinct flavor)

Crispy Rice

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 tbsb butter
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 3 cups cooked sushi rice (you can make from scratch or purchase cooked sushi rice at most Asian grocers)

For the tuna:

In a medium bowl, mix all tuna ingredients together. Cover and reserve in refrigerator.  You can make this up to four hours in advance, and two is ideal so that the flavors marry. 

For the rice:

I use a common sushi rice form just like the one pictured here called a spam sushi mold to pack my rice tight and get it to form perfect rectangles.  You could also form it by rolling it tightly in a sushi mat or even just cling wrap. The idea is to pack the rice as tightly as possible, cut it into rectangles about 2″x1.5″ and fry it in the butter, oil and tamari. The tighter the rice is packed the less rice crumbling you’ll experience.  If you have a non-stick sushi knife to cut through your rice, your bundles will stay together even better with minimal sticking.  Another idea would be to pack the rice into ice cube trays if you have nothing else on hand. 

To fry, use a non-stick skillet and heat a bit of butter, touch of oil and tad of tamari until hot. Fry rice pieces a few at a time on both sides to avoid overcrowding. I lid mine so that popping rice kernels don’t jump out all over the kitchen.  Once they are golden on both sides, they are ready for the tuna topping. 

Place a teaspoon-sized dollop of tuna on top of the rice.  Garnish with a few extra tobiko eggs for extra color. Alternatively you can garnish with a thinly sliced pepper, but I find the Sriracha gives these babies plenty of kick.

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25 Responses

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  4. I have disagree with the whole premise that spawned what otherwise appears to be a great recipe. While the Spicy Tuna over Crispy Rice at Katsu-Ya is amazing, awesome, and basically like Sushi comfort food and they’ve been doing it for ages, the best thing about the Sushi in Southern California is certainly the abundance of 95%+ percentile (and up) quality fish at a fair price. I lived in Seattle for over 2 years and was actually surprised at how mediocre the value (quality/price + service) = value of the actual fish. I tried all the good spots, and while Nishino and Kisaku were the best I had and due to budget/location Kisaku was my spot (they were really cool there and are great about getting you a table even when it’s busy) but even the “best of the best” (that I could find) left a lot to be desired. It was very surprising to me because many of my Seattle Local friends raved about Seattle being a great sushi town, which, frankly it’s just not.

    Now, I know this is a bit off topic, but I couldn’t resist dispelling the premise. The thing is, I don’t fault Seattle at all. Seattle is a great food and restaurant town, there is enough demand to fuel a solid high quality fish-based Sushi economy, but I think it is out of most of the chefs control. I mean, I had a lot of very well prepared sushi with cool chefs and good service, but ultimately it comes down to supply. Los Angeles is a huge place, with easy access to the best exported Japanese fish on the planet (huge ports, daily non-stops to Japan) a huge populace, a huge Asian population, a thriving Sushi culture, and plenty of people with way too much money to throw around on eating incredible Sushi multiple times a week if they choose to. Our fish markets just have so much access to a staggering amount of fish, so when you are going to places who strive to serve only the best and chefs who are willing to head to the main market every morning at 4am to get the best, it’s a winning combination.

    I mean it’s not surprising that not only is the Sushi in L.A. better than Seattle, but based on my experience and the opinion of most food critics worth a damn, it is the best Sushi city in the USA (sorry, NY and San Francisco). I mean the Bay Area is arguably the best food city in the country, and my favorite, but when it comes to good old raw fish (and Cheeseburgers) L.A. takes the (rice) cake.

    But that said, thanks for what looks like a great recipe, and I would try it, but I’ll just go to Katsu-Ya instead.

    p.s. If you are in L.A. I would recommend going to “Katsu-Ya” over Katsuya. While they have the same chef running the very small chain, the 2 Katsu-Yas are the original, modest versions of the restaurant on Ventura Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley’s “Sushi Row” the Katsuya version (no dash) is a collaboration between chef Katsuya Uechi, Phillipe Starck, and SBE group and is much fancier and caters to more to the Hollywood types and well-heeled who may have different motivations than fish quality about choosing their dinner spot. Much of the menu is the same (and if you’re into hot food Katsuya is nice as they have a Robata grill) you pay a lot extra for architecture, location, eye candy waitresses, and the actual fish sushi/sashimi specials always contain much more variety and freshness with servers who know what the hell they’re talking about. And yes, they have Spicy Tuna over Crispy Rice.
    p.p.s. I’ve noticed that Spicy Tuna over Crispy rice has become much more ubiquitous on Sushi menus all over Southern California and other cities, has it found it’s way the PNW in the intervening ~2 years since this was posted?

  5. I completely agree with you that these are the BEST thing about SoCal sushi- what I can’t comprehend is why they have not found themselves elsewhere….My favorite were at Sashi in Manhattan beach and the ones at Katsuya are pretty good but different. I have yet to experiment with raw fish myself, but this will be the first when I do. You might like this soup- http://keelymarie.com/2011/09/18/the-hangover-cure-taiwan-ramen-noodle-soup/

  6. hahahaha — You should call it the 206/425 Ninja Roll. I love that you’re using a Spam musubi mold. It’s such a versatile kitchen tool — I’ve used it to make little sweet coconut rice cakes and it does indeed make a mighty Spam Musubi.

  7. I love kewpie mayo. I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves it subtlety.

  8. Linda

    This looks amazing — YOU are amazing. I have never heard of this combination before but boy does it sound good!! Beaaaaautiful daaahling!

  9. This looks absolutely amazing! Will definitely make it for a potluck dinner this weekend! Wow!

  10. this looks freakin’ awsome!! i cannot wait to make this!!

  11. Linda

    This looks amazing — YOU are amazing. I have never heard of this combination before but boy does it sound good!! Beaaaaautiful daaahling!

  12. Holy moley! This looks incredible! I’m printing and trying this weekend! Thanks so much!

  13. Nice! This is the kind of food I crave. I want some with good ale now, Dearie!

  14. How artful! and would taste amazing…thanks!!

  15. Sheila

    I have never met you, but can I just say that you may consider this hate mail from a recovering sushi-aholic who has found a new addiction. I live in MN where there is never good sushi to be found so – Thank You! Did it up with Spicy Salmon for a northern kick.

  16. I remember when you ordered these! But your version looks tastier :)

  17. @penny aka jeroxie
    they disappear quickly at a party, Penny!

  18. @Heather (Heather’s Dish)
    I know- pretty much every culture that has figured that out is awesome, no?

  19. @The Duo Dishes
    yes, a butter balance, as in one side of the scale has a pound, and so does the other :)

  20. Oh how I miss So.Cal sushi. This looks like a great recipe to hold me over to my next trip down to Cali, can’t wait to try it out. And yeah, I’m pretty sure you’re not finidng it in the 909, yo ;)

  21. Yum butter. There always has to be a balance, right?! It looks like this would be gobbled up if you set the plate on the table.

  22. Another party food idea! Interesting.

  23. These look fantastic!

  24. this is all fabulous, but honestly you had me at “crispy rice.” i don’t know if a better thing exists!!!

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