I grew up in LA, and one of my all time favorite places to eat was (and still is) this little Japanese restaurant called Iroha in Studio City. It’s close to the high school I went to, it’s reasonably priced, and it’s DELICIOUS. It also recently came into the spotlight for a weird, 13 foot, snake throwing incident. So, how could it be bad?
My favorite dish on the menu, and maybe of all time is a masterpiece called “Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice.” Now, I know what you’re thinking, so what? It’s like a spicy tuna roll? Probably not that good.
No, this is amazing. This is the best thing in the world. If I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day and not get mercury poisoning, I would. Also, with all that rice, I’d probably never poop again, so moderation is advisable.
When I moved away to college, I couldn’t find a similar dish anywhere, and the withdrawal kicked in. I started googling, trying to find a way to recreate this myself, and over the years, this is the recipe I’ve honed that gets it right. Enjoy!
Ingredients Rice Base:
- 1 cup sushi rice (makes 3½ cups cooked rice)
- 1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2½ teaspoons salt
- 6 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- *Saran Wrap for molding – very important
- Vegetable Oil for frying
Ingredients Tuna Topping:
- 1/2 lb raw sashimi grade tuna (can be frozen, but fresh is preferred. I can’t tell the difference, but my boyfriend thinks the fresh is much better.)
- 3 tablespoons Kewpie Mayonnaise (regular mayo is okay if you can’t get Kewpie, but I HIGHLY recommend using Kewpie if you can
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha – this stuff is spicy, so add slowly, and add more to taste
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil – if you like this flavor, you can add more to taste
- 1/2 – 1 scallion thinly sliced – again, can add more scallion to taste
- Soy Sauce
Instructions Rice Base (part 1):
Let’s start with the rice! The key to this recipe is the rice. Have you noticed how good sushi rice has a slightly salty yet tangy flavor? Well, it’s not magic in the sticky rice grains, it’s a seasoning called sushi-su, which we will make and add here.
So, first let’s get the sticky rice cooking – make sure to wash the rice first, to remove the starchy coating. Pour the rice into your pot, cover it with cold water, swish it around with your hands, and carefully drain with a strainer. Repeat this until the water runs clear. Next, follow the proportions and instructions on the rice box for water to rice, etc, and get it cooking.
While that’s cooking, make the sushi-su: combine the salt, sugar, and seasoned rice vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Make sure to stir this mixture frequently (almost continuously), as it’s going, and remove from heat as soon as the sugar and salt have dissolved. Set aside and let it cool while you wait for the rice to finish.
When the rice is fully cooked, transfer it to a wide, shallow pot or bowl. I typically use a roasting pan for this step, but whatever bowl you choose, make sure you line the bottom with Saran Wrap. Trust me, this rice is very sticky, and the pan will be a nightmare to deal with after you’re done. Once the rice is in the pan/bowl, gradually pour ½ a cup of the sushi-su over the rice, evenly. As you pour small amounts of it over the rice, gently mix it through with your spatula. Taste the rice occasionally, and add more to your liking! If there is leftover sushi-su, you can store it in a sealed container in the fridge for a month. (Which you should, because after you try this recipe, you’re going to want to make this dish every day)
At this point, cover the rice with Saran Wrap or a damp paper towel, and set aside to cool, while you work on the tuna topping. We’ll come back to the rice later.
Instructions Tuna Topping:
(Note: if you’re using frozen tuna, defrost first, by running the tuna under cold water.)
There are a couple of options on how to prepare this – if you have really nice tuna, and you love the taste of sashimi, you can slice the tuna into small cubes – 1/3 – 1/4 of an inch thick. That said, the spicy tuna served in most restaurants is more of a tuna mash/ purée. Personally, I prefer the second option, but it’s totally up to you. Either way, you’ll still need to slice the tuna into small, manageable pieces first, so do that, and toss the fish into a medium sized bowl, eliminating as much of the whitish connective tissue in the fish as possible. Add the mayo, Sriracha, scallions, and sesame oil to the bowl, and mix well. Now, if you want the restaurant style puréed spicy tuna, grab a fork and mash the chunks of tuna until you achieve the desired consistency. Taste, and add more Sriracha, Mayo, and/or sesame oil as desired. Cover the bowl with Saran Wrap, and pop it in the fridge.
Instructions Rice Base (Part 2):
When the rice is cool enough to handle (it should be by the time you finish mixing the tuna topping), you’ll need to mold the rice into small, rectangular shaped pieces – about 1½ inches long. DON’T do this with your hands. I repeat….DO NOT SHAPE THESE PIECES WITH YOUR HANDS. The rice is incredibly sticky, and it will quickly spiral into a starchy gluey mess, if you do it this way. So, grab your Saran Wrap and use it as a barrier (food condom! (Sorry)) between the rice and your hands as you’re shaping the rice pieces. *IMPORTANT*: when molding the rice, make sure you’re squashing it down into densely packed pieces – if it’s too loose, the rice will just fall apart when you fry it.
Once formed, coat these rice balls with sesame seeds (I love sesame seeds, so I usually add a fair amount at this point, so do as much or little as you’d like).
Next, heat the cooking oil over a medium-high flame in a frying pan. Make sure you use enough oil to cover the rice pieces, and fry them in batches, until they are golden brown. I highly recommend using tongs while frying, as it’s much easier to flip the sticky patties and maneuver them with this tool. When finished, remove them from the oil and place them on a plate covered with paper towels to drain the excess oil and cool slightly.
Putting It All Together:
Top the individual rice patties with the spicy tuna mixture, and serve with soy sauce. Oh, and EAT!
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