Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice

3 pieces of spicy tuna crispy rice

Don’t spend $30 on this Nobu classic when you can make spicy tuna crispy rice at home for a fraction of the price and customize every ingredient. This recipe breaks down how the popular restaurant makes its famous dish and gives tips on getting perfectly crispy rice and adding more complex flavor to traditional spicy tuna mix. 

Recipe backstory

Restaurants like Nobu in LA popularized spicy tuna crispy rice, but Katsuya Uechi actually created it at his Brentwood restaurant Sushi Katsuya in the early 2000s, and it’s still available there today. Legend has it that one of Chef Uechi’s diners didn’t like sushi, so he created a pan-fried version of spicy tuna that would convince him otherwise. 

Katsuya’s version is labeled crispy rice with spicy tuna on the menu and features a rectangle of rice lightly pan-seared with butter so you can still see the white color of the rice, a scoop of tuna mixed with spicy dressing, and a slice of serrano chile. 

My version vs. Nobu’s

Before visiting Nobu, I was already familiar with spicy tuna crispy rice from dining at many other restaurants serving this dish; however, I was surprised to see how it was presented at Nobu. Nobu’s version features a finely minced spicy tuna paste that is served separately from the crispy deep-fried rice cubes. It comes with toothpicks for you to skewer one rice cube, dip it into the soy sauce, and top with the spicy tuna mix. All of the spicy tuna crispy rice dishes we’ve had elsewhere come already assembled. 

While Nobu’s version seems more interactive, I prefer Katsuya’s already prepared presentation because it’s easier to eat. I also prefer the thinner and less cumbersome crispy rice bite with cubed spicy tuna on top and prefer cubed tuna over a more finely chopped, creamier version.  

How to make and fry the crispy rice

Choosing a container to shape & press the rice

The key end result is to get a compressed rice block that’s ¾” high after pressing. ¾” is a good height to make the proportion of rice nice for a 2-bite crispy rice cake. And when you deep fry it, it’s not too thin it crisps all the way through. And it’s not too thick that the inside is gooey when the outer portion of rice is cooked. The exact dimensions of the rice cakes you cut out aren’t as critical as the height of the rice.

I use rectangular glass food storage containers measuring 8 ¾” long x 6 ¾” wide x 3 ¼” high that can easily nest and stack on top of each other to make pressing even.

The bottom surface area of this container is 8.75 x 6.75 = about 59 square inches. If the surface area of the container you use is 50% larger, then multiply the rice you make by 1.5. Or you can add something like beans as filler in the container to fill up the space the rice does not before pressing.

Cooking the rice

I start making the crispy rice with the same sushi rice base I make for all sushi. After cooking short-grain rice in a rice cooker, I season it with a mixture of sugar, rice vinegar, and salt to the rice and gently mix it together. Immediately press the rice for shaping when it’s warm because it’s easier to manage. 

Shaping & pressing the rice

Take one storage container and line it with parchment paper. Add the seasoned rice and evenly smooth it with a spatula. You should end up with a pressed rice block measuring 6 ½” long x 5” wide x ¾” high.

Cover the rice with more parchment paper and place the second food storage container directly above it. Press down hard on the container so the rice compresses into an even, rectangular shape. You don’t want to press it so hard that the rice becomes a brick, but the goal is to make a formed rice cake that removes most of the gap and air in between. Keep this in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Cutting the rice

You’ll know when the rice is set once you can poke it and no granules lift. Lift the rice block out using the parchment paper. Use a knife to cut 18 rice pieces that are about 1” long x ½” wide x ¾” high each. The rice will still be somewhat sticky, so wiping the knife with a damp towel in between slices helps. 

Deep frying

Deep frying the rice rectangles is the best way to get an even crispiness. Preheat a pot of neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point (like avocado oil) to 375 °F–you’ll only need about 1 inch of cooking oil. Fry each rice rectangle for about 2 ½-3 minutes each. Use a timer! It will be very quick, and they will finish crisping on the plate after you remove them, so don’t get deterred by pale coloring. I found that they continue to cook a little bit on the plate for 1-2 minutes after removing them from the oil

I suggest doing a few test batches and waiting 2 minutes before tasting to determine your personal preferred texture. The texture can vary a lot from 1.5 to 3 minutes of cooking and depend on your oil temperature and how many you fry at a time (too many can lower the temperature too much).

How to make the spicy tuna

This recipe for spicy tuna is a little different from my spicy tuna rolls because I wanted to impart more flavor from the fish to balance out the fried rice richness. In addition to Kewpie mayonnaise and sriracha, I add other ingredients like yuzu juice and soy sauce for more acidity and complexity.

I like to buy blocks of tuna to cut them to the size I want (mini cubes). I can easily find this in-store at Mitsuwa or H-Mart or online at Catalina OP

How to assemble

All you have to do to assemble spicy tuna crispy rice is:

1. Take a crispy rice rectangle, add some avocado.

adding scoop of spicy tuna

2. Add a tablespoon or so of spicy tuna.

3. Top with thinly sliced scallions, sesame seeds, or jalapeno.

Note that you’ll want to only assemble these just before serving them because the spicy tuna may make the crispy rice cubes soggy if they sit out too long.

Can you make this ahead of time, or save leftovers?

With any recipe involving raw fish, I would eat most of the food the day of or as soon as possible. The spicy tuna can be stored in the fridge for up to one day, but I wouldn’t keep it longer than that for safety.

The crispy rice also gets slightly soggy after a day, but you can reheat it in a toaster oven. Just note that they may get a little tougher each time you reheat it due to moisture loss.

spicy tuna crispy rice recipe

Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice Recipe

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Learn how to make Nobu’s popular spicy tuna crispy rice at home so you can save money and customize the flavor.
BY: Huy Vu
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Rice chilling: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
SERVINGS: 18 pieces

Ingredients

Sushi rice

  • 1 c short grain rice
  • tap water for rinsing rice
  • 1 c filtered water
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cane sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt Diamond Crystal brand preferred

Spicy tuna

  • 4 oz raw sushi-grade tuna finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • ½ tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp yuzu juice or lemon juice

Optional toppings

  • jalapeno thinly sliced
  • scallions thinly sliced
  • avocado diced
  • sesame seeds

Equipment Used

  • rice cooker and paddle
  • knife and cutting board
  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • shallow pot
  • tongs
  • paper towels
  • Sheet pans
  • 2 rectangular containers to mold and press the rice (8 ¾" long x 6 ¾" wide x 3 ¼" high)
  • parchment paper

Instructions 

Sushi rice

  • Rinse the 1 c short grain rice under running tap water until it runs clear.
    rinsing rice in a pot
  • Add the 1 c short grain rice to the cooker with 1 c filtered water and cook until plump.
  • Open the lid and let it air out for 5 minutes.
  • Add the 1 tbsp cane sugar, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, and ½ tsp kosher salt to a microwave-safe container. Microwave in 20-second increments until the sugar and salt dissolve.
    sushi rice seasoning mixture
  • Gently pour the sugar vinegar seasoning into the rice and use the paddle to gently mix the seasoning into every grain of rice without breaking the grains.
    sushi rice in rice pot
  • Line one of your storage containers with parchment paper and gently place the sushi rice on top of the parchment paper. Use your rice paddle to even out the top layer and press down evenly. The rice block should measure roughly 6 ½” long x 5” wide x ¾” high.
    spreading sushi rice in container
  • Cover the top with parchment paper and place the second food container of the same size on top. Use your hands to firmly press down on the top container to press down on the rice further.
    pressing sushi rice in glass containers
  • Place this in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • The rice is finished setting once it feels firm to the touch and none of the grains of rice lift when you poke the rice block. It’s ok if the rice still feels a bit sticky.

Spicy tuna

  • Dice 4 oz raw sushi-grade tuna into about 3mm cubes.
    slicing tuna into cubes
  • Add the 4 oz raw sushi-grade tuna, 1 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise, 1 tbsp sriracha, ½ tsp low-sodium soy sauce, and ¼ tsp yuzu juice into a bowl.
    spicy tuna ingredients
  • Mix together until incorporated. Set aside.
    mixed bowl of spicy tuna

Crispy rice

  • Add about one inch of neutral oil to the pot over medium heat. Preheat to 375 °F.
    frying station, pot with oil
  • Remove the pressed sushi rice by lifting the entire parchment paper onto a cutting board.
    containers pressing sushi rice
  • Cut the sushi rice into 18 even rectangular pieces, about 1” long x ½” wide x ¾” high each. Clean the knife in between each slice to make it easier to cut the rice. I like to use my fingers to round out the edges and corners if there are a few grains that escape during cutting. This also helps to reinforce the rectangular shape.
    slicing pressed sushi rice block
  • Once the oil is at temperature, gently put the sushi rice pieces into the hot oil. I fry about 2-3 pieces at a time in a 2 quart pot. Try not to crowd them, or they will stick together and lower the oil temp too much. Fry for about one minute, flip them over and fry another 1-2 minutes until they are pale brown.
    frying rice blocks in oil
  • Remove the crispy rice pieces and transfer them to a paper towel-lined rack. Let them crisp up for another minute or two. They should darken slightly and continue to cook on the paper.
    fried crispy rice blocks on paper towel
  • To assemble: take one crispy rice piece and add the toppings. I like to start with avocado, then about ½ tbsp spicy tuna mix on top. Top with your choice of thinly sliced scallions, sliced jalapeno , and sesame seeds, extra sriracha optional. Repeat with all the crispy rice pieces.
    adding scoop of spicy tuna
  • Serve immediately.
    adding jalapeno to spicy tuna crispy rice
Nutrition Facts
Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice Recipe
Amount per Serving
Calories
57.86
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
0.98
g
2
%
Saturated Fat
 
0.18
g
1
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
0.44
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
0.28
g
Cholesterol
 
3.78
mg
1
%
Sodium
 
97.77
mg
4
%
Potassium
 
26.04
mg
1
%
Carbohydrates
 
9.48
g
3
%
Fiber
 
0.31
g
1
%
Sugar
 
0.68
g
1
%
Protein
 
2.21
g
4
%
Vitamin A
 
138.7
IU
3
%
Vitamin C
 
0.57
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
1.44
mg
0
%
Iron
 
0.54
mg
3
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: American, Asian, Japanese
Keyword: cheaper, Sushi
Did you cook this recipe?Tag @HungryHuy or #hungryhuy–I’d love to see it!

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