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.
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?
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)
- 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.