Growing up in LA, spicy tuna was one of my food groups. The other three were gomae (sesame spinach), udon soup and edamame. Needless to say, the spicy tuna roll is now ubiquitous in sushi restaurants from Tokyo to Tulsa. No one single chef is credited with creating the spicy tuna roll, but my research has lead me to believe it first appeared in California in the 70s. It’s a great bread winner for the sushi restaurant because they can use cheaper cuts of tuna (not really good for you, the eater).
The 2 key ingredients besides fresh sushi-grade tuna are Kewpie mayonnaise and Sriracha. Essentially, you need MSG. No it’s not bad for you, it just makes everything taste delicious.
You’ll also need sticky Japanese rice. I’m always terrified of making rice, but after watching a lot of youtube videos about it, I think I’ve cracked the code.
How to make perfect sushi rice without a rice cooker
If you follow these instructions, you will have beautiful perfect sushi rice. The key is to TRUST yourself and NEVER EVER remove the lid.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
You will need:
1 cup premium grade Japanese sushi rice (Nishiki and Kokuho are good brands)
1 cup water
1 1/2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1. Rinse the rice in a strainer after measuring exactly 1 cup in a dry measuring cup and add too a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.
2. Add 1 cup of water, cover and bring to boil over high heat. Watch and listen very carefully it will boil in 4-6 minutes.
3. When the pot starts to shake and steam and water splutter out, turn the heat way way down to just barely a simmer. DO NOT TAKE THE LID OFF TO CHECK. Cook for 16 minutes at a simmer.
4. Remove the pot, sill covered, from the stove. Set it to steam (can be another dormant burner on your stove) for about 10 minutes without checking it.
5. Whisk rice vinegar, salt and sugar together. Using a wooden spoon, remove the rice from the pot to a large plastic bowl and fold in the vinegar mixture. If there is a crispy layer of rice on the bottom of your pot, leave it and cut your losses, you only want the fluffy white stuff on top. The rice will sit comfortably for a few hours in a plastic bowl with a damp towel covering it.
Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice
Makes about 12 pieces
You will need:
2 cups cooked sticky Japanese sticky rice (recipe above)
2 Tablespoons black sesame seeds
½ lb piece of sushi grade tuna
2 Tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise (available at any Japanese market)
1 Tablespoon (plus more to taste) Sriracha
½ teaspoon wasabi powder
1 Teaspoon sesame oil
2 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons neutral oil (canola, vegetable or grapeseed)
1. Make the tuna mixture by slicing the tuna into thin strips against the grain. Chop those thin strips into tiny cubes. Add to small bowl with the Kewpie, Sriracha, wasabi powder and sesame oil and mix gently with a spoon. Taste as you go, adding more mayo or Sriracha depending on how creamy and spicy you want it. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use it (a few hours at most).
2. Keep the rice in a bowl covered with a damp towel. Fill a small bowl with hot water and coat your hands. Using your fingers, make small, tightly-packed 1×2 inch rectangles, re-wetting your hands between each one to prevent the rice from sticking. Once you have used all your rice and you have a whole plate full of little rectangles, generously sprinkle sesame seeds all over both sides.
3. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, carefully place each rectangle in the hot oil, cooking 4 at a time. Heat for about 2 minutes on each side so the rice is just crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat until all the rice pieces are browned.
4. Place a scant teaspoon of the tuna mixture on each of the pieces and sprinkle with chopped scallions.