8 & $20: Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna

A high-end Japanese favorite adapted for home cooks

8 & $20: Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna
Recreate a staple of upscale Japanese restaurants with this approachable recipe. (Julie Harans)
Sep 11, 2019

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

This dish of crunchy, golden rice topped with fresh, spicy tuna has become a beloved staple in upscale Japanese eateries like Nobu and Katsuya—but you can make it yourself. The recipe isn't exactly suited to a quick weeknight dinner—pick a day with enough time for a multistep project—but there’s really nothing tricky here.

Any anxiety you feel about tackling a raw-fish recipe as a home cook can be soothed by finding a reliable Japanese market known for fresh fish where you can purchase large cuts of sashimi-grade tuna. The rest is pretty straightforward, but you can simplify this recipe even more by purchasing premade sushi rice from your local Japanese restaurant.

Though my first instinct for the wine pairing was a Riesling with some sweetness to offset the dish’s spice, I decided to go for a dry wine that would be less likely to overpower the delicate fresh fish. Three Brothers Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 0 Degrees 2017 worked well, with a solid backbone of acidity to cut the richness from the deep-frying. Its subtle floral notes also seemed to accentuate the scallion that’s mixed in with the tuna.

One bite of the finished product and you might be converted into a regular at-home sushi chef. The rice’s delicate crust and tender, sweet interior against the umami-rich tuna is pure pleasure, especially alongside a glass of wine. Enjoy it as a satisfying appetizer, or pair with a Japanese side like edamame or seaweed salad for a full meal.

Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna

Pair with a dry Riesling such as Three Brothers Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 0 Degrees 2017 (88 points, $14).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Approximate food costs: $60


  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup Japanese mayonnaise or regular mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 1 1/2 pounds sushi-grade tuna, sliced against the grain and finely chopped
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Place rice in a medium bowl and rinse, with a few changes of water, until the water runs clear. Drain well and add to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Without uncovering, remove rice from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile, place vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and 1 tablespoon of salt, whisking occasionally until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Gradually and evenly pour vinegar mixture over the rice as you gently stir. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, on which you’ll place the rice pieces. Lightly wet your hands with water. Working with 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice at a time, shape into rectangles about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches and place them on the lined baking sheet. As you work, wet your hands again as needed to counteract stickiness. When all the rice is used, transfer baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes.

4. As the rice is chilling, mix mayonnaise and Sriracha in a medium bowl. Gently fold in tuna and scallions. Taste and season with salt if desired. Cover and store in the fridge while you fry the rice.

5. Cover two plates with paper towels and set them near the stove for draining the rice rectangles after frying. Heat oil on medium-high in a medium-sized, high-rimmed skillet for 3 minutes. Working in batches, drop the rice rectangles in the oil, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Fry for 6 minutes, flipping once halfway through, then transfer to the paper towel–covered plates.

6. Starting with the first batch of rice that has had a few minutes to cool, scoop a tablespoon of tuna mixture onto each rice rectangle and gently press into place. Serves 6 appetizer portions or 3–4 entrée portions.

Recipes Cooking Pairings White Wines Seafood Riesling

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