Eric Akis: No time to roll? Try sushi in a bowl

Forget the fiddling and enjoy this Japanese delicacy in an easy-to-arrange setup

Eric Akis

If you like sushi, tried to make it home and things fell apart, not rolling the way you had hoped, try a simpler approach. Rather than pack and fit the rice, seafood and other ingredients inside a sheet of nori, artfully arrange them in a bowl instead, creating a pretty-to-look-at dish with an array of appealing tastes and textures.

That’s what I did with today’s B.C. albacore tuna tataki sushi rice bowl recipe. To make it, cooked, cooled sushi rice — infused with sweet, tangy and salty flavours — is set in a shallow bowl. The rice is then topped with ingredients one might find inside a sushi roll, such as cucumber, avocado, green onion and carrot.

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Tataki is method where a food, in this case a small, seasoned, boneless loin of albacore tuna, is quickly seared on the outside, but left raw in the middle. After searing the fish, I brushed it with sesame oil, and then coated it with toasted sesame seeds. The tuna was then sliced and set on my sushi rice bowl, creating a splendid main ingredient for it. For added taste, colour and visual interest, I also set some microgreens in the bowl (see recipe Note for details).

The frozen tuna loin I bought for my bowl, which I thawed before using, was sushi- (also called sashimi-) grade fish. It’s a confirmation by the seller that the fish was kept frozen below -20 C for seven days, or below -35 C for 15 hours, to destroy parasites that might be present in it, which in turn, makes the fish suitable to serve raw.

If you don’t care for tuna tataki, you could certainly top the sushi rice bowls with another type of whole or sliced cooked or raw seafood, such as cooked prawns, shrimp or crabmeat, or sushi-grade raw salmon.

B.C. Albacore Tuna Tataki Sushi Rice Bowls

Tuna tataki, quickly seared fish that’s still raw in the middle, is the focal point for these bowls filled with cooked, seasoned and cooled sushi rice, and a mix of other colourful ingredients.

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: About 18 minutes

Makes: Two servings

For the rice

1 cup sushi rice (see Note 1)

1 1/3 cups cold water

3 Tbsp rice vinegar

4 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Place the rice and water in a small pot (mine was 14 centimetres wide), set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Now turn the heat to its lowest setting, cover the rice and steam until tender, about 15 minutes.

While the rice cooks, place the vinegar, sugar and salt in a second small pot. Set over medium-high heat, bring to a boil for a few seconds and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

When it’s cooked, spoon and spread the rice into a large, shallow-sided pan. Stir in the vinegar mixture, and then cool the rice to room temperature.

For the tuna

4 tsp toasted sesame seeds (see Note 2)

1 (200 to 225 gram) frozen albacore tuna loin, thawed and patted dry (see Note 3)

1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil, plus some for the grill

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tsp sesame oil

Preheat your barbecue or indoor grill to medium-high. Spread sesame seeds on a wide plate. Brush the tuna with the 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.

When barbecue or indoor grill is hot, lightly oil the bars of the grill. Grill the tuna about 20 to 30 seconds per side, until seared on the outside, but still raw in the middle.

Set the tuna on a plate and brush with the sesame oil. Transfer the tuna to the plate with sesame seeds on it and turn to coat.

Use tuna as described below.

To finish the sushi rice bowl

10 thin slices English cucumber, each halved

3 to 4 radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 to 1/3 cup grated carrot

1 small avocado, quartered lengthwise, peeled, pitted and sliced

• microgreens or pea shoots, to taste (see Note 4)

1 large green onion, thinly sliced

• sushi bowl sauces (see recipe below)

Divide the rice between two shallow bowls. Divide and artfully arrange the cucumber, radish, carrot, avocado and micro greens (or pea shoots) on top of the rice in each bowl.

With a very sharp knife, slice the tuna, widthwise, into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick slices. Set an equal amount of the tuna, in an overlapping row, down the centre of each rice bowl.

Sprinkle green onions in each bowl, and then serve with the sushi bowl sauces, for drizzling on top.

Note 1: Sushi rice is short- or medium-grained rice that’s sticky when cooked, making it hold together for sushi. It’s sold in the ethnic food aisle of most supermarkets and at Asian food stores. Brands I have seen include Nishiki, Lundberg and Kokuho Rose.

Note 2: Sesame seeds that have already been toasted are sold in bags or bottles at some supermarkets. If you can’t find them, toast your own. To do so, place raw sesame seeds in a small skillet set over medium heat. Cook and swirl the seeds a few minutes, until golden and lightly toasted.

Note 3: Loins of B.C. albacore tuna are sold frozen at some seafood stores, such as Finest at Sea in Victoria, 27 Erie St. It’s also sold at Japanese food stores, such as Fujiya Foods, 3624 Shelbourne St., and Sakura Sushi, Grocery and Restaunrant, 1213 Quadra St. You might also find it at some supermarkets, such as the Fairfield location of Thrifty Foods.

Note 4: Microgreens are the small shoots of vegetables picked just after the first leaves have developed. Green Goodness, a business located in Sooke, grew the micro-beet greens I used in my recipe. Some of the many other microgreens they sell, which could be used in this recipe, include wasabi mustard, pac choi, pea and radish. They are sold at Village Food Market in Sooke, and the Root Cellar in Saanich. You can also use pea shoots in the recipe, which are sold in small tubs at most supermarkets around the Island.

Eric’s options: Other types of tuna loin, such as ahi, will also work in this recipe. Lots of flavour in these bowls, but if you wanted two more tastes, you could also top the sushi rice bowls with a little wasabi and pickled ginger.

Sushi Rice Bowl Sauces

Drizzle the albacore tuna tataki sushi rice bowls with these tasty ginger and ponzu sauces. Any leftover sauce will keep at least a week in the fridge.

Serve with other Asian-style dishes.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: Makes about 1/2 cup of each sauce

For ginger sauce

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (see Note under sushi rice bowl recipe)

2 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 tsp honey

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate sauce until ready to serve.

For ponzu sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp water

1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp honey

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate sauce until ready to serve.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks, including seven in his Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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