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If you have ever been to Japan or have a Japanese friend as I do, you will know for sure that spicy tuna roll is a staple food in the country. They are sold at restaurants, sushi bars, and even at grocery stores. People like to make them at home for lunch, dinner, and even pack them in bento boxes for school or office.
What is in a spicy tuna roll? Typically, it is made of three main ingredients: seasoned sushi rice, nori and sushi-grade tuna. However, the recipe may vary from restaurant to restaurant. Plus, there may be several other optional ingredients added to enhance the taste of the sushi roll.
Some people prefer to use the whole tuna fillets while others may chop them up and season with a delicious sauce. In some places, chefs may add crunchy tempura bits to enhance the texture of the roll. The one common thing is that all of them use the extra spice in the form of sauce or grounded powder.
A spicy sauce called sriracha or ground red chili is often added to the roll to increase the spice factor. Sushi rice and tuna fillets/ chopped cubes are neatly arranged in a Nori sheet and seasoned with sriracha sauce or grounded form of dried red chili pepper.
A Poor Man’s Sushi Roll
The spicy tuna roll is often referred to as the poor man’s sushi because it is easy to make using readily available ingredients. However, you must ensure that you only use the finest quality sushi-grade tuna. In some recipes, you may add other optional ingredients such as scallions, sesame seeds, and green onions.
It is a great way to introduce beginners to try raw fish and the authentic flavors of sushi. The spice factor makes it easier to eat raw fish for the first time and helps people appreciate the taste.
Spicy Tuna Roll (Recipe)
• 1/2 pound sushi-grade tuna
• 1 tbsp mayonnaise
• 1/2 tsp dried red chili pepper or cucumber, ground (optional)
• 4 sheets of nori (toasted seaweed)
• 6 cups of prepared seasoned sushi rice
• 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
First, you need to cook the sushi rice and season it with vinegar, salt, and sugar. To find the steps and measurements for making perfect sushi rice, click here.
Make small pieces of sushi-grade tuna and mix with mayonnaise and ground dried red chili pepper in a bowl.
Now, place a bamboo mat like this on the working surface and place the Nori sheet over it. Take a medium ball of sushi rice and spread it over the Nori sheet. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds on rice.
Take a ¼ portion of the chopped tuna pieces seasoned with sauce and place it over the rice. Spread the tuna mix to cover the entire length of the Nori.
Lift the bamboo mat and start rolling forward, pressing gently as you roll to form a compact cylinder. Use the bamboo mat to gently hug the roll one more time.
If you wish to make an inside-out version, flip the Nori sheet after applying a layer of sushi rice on it. Add the seasoned tuna pieces and now roll tightly.
You may garnish the top of the rice with spicy mayo sauce.
Origin Of Spicy Tuna Sushi Roll
Before sushi became popular, tuna fish was considered as the poor man’s food and only eaten by peasants and laborers. In the 17th century, a sushi chef named Hanaya Yohei started preparing sushi rice balls with a thin layer of tuna fish, which was readily available from the nearby sea.
He had a small shop in Edo (now Tokyo) from where he served the passersby and people loved this food. It not only tasted great but was a quick meal for those on the move. So, the cradle of sushi rice served with tuna fillets originated somewhere in the Edo period.
This not only made sushi popular but also increased the social status of tuna fish. Sushi slowly reached the western countries, and Los Angeles became the first US state to embrace sushi. The recipes slowly evolved and today spicy tuna sushi roll is one of the top-selling foods around the world.
The use of other ingredients like avocado and fried rolls reflect the western influence on sushi. If you would like to enjoy authentic or traditional spicy tuna sushi roll, visit a Japanese sushi bar or make it at home.
Tips To Help You Make The Perfect Spicy Tuna Roll
1. Good sushi starts with the perfectly cooked sushi rice, so make sure you always use short-grain Japanese rice. It has a nice sticky texture and cooks quickly.
2. Prepare sushi vinegar in the perfect ratio and blend it with warm rice evenly. Spicy tuna will not taste the same without properly seasoned sushi rice.
3. When toasting the Nori, make sure you do not over do it or else it may become brittle. Also, make sure that you do not crush the nori.
5. When you roll the tuna, do it gently but make it tight. The last thing you want is the sushi to fall apart in your hands of the hand. The trick is to pull the bamboo while you are tucking it in and rolling the sushi.
6. If the rice starts sticking to your hands, you should use a Tezu. This is basically hand dipping water made with the rice vinegar and an equal portion of water. Tezu moistens your hand so that the rice stops sticking when you roll.
Buying Sushi-Grade Fish For Your Spicy Tuna Roll
Spicy tuna rolls are an inevitable item on the menu, and almost all restaurants will have them. They are also extremely easy to make at home. As the recipe uses raw tuna fish, it is crucial to purchase sushi-grade tuna or maguro from a trusted fishmonger.
I prefer using white albacore tuna in my sushi rolls as the flesh has a fresh and firm texture when thawed. It makes the homemade spicy tuna rolls taste amazing. If you live close to the sea, you are in for luck. If not, you can inspect and purchase sushi grade from a local fishmonger.
I also prefer buying sushi-grade fish online from a trusted source called Catalina Offshore Products. They have different types of tuna fish and other species of fish available. This way you can be sure of the quality and also get convenient delivery.
Making The Signature Spicy Sauce
The spicy sauce is a vital part of the sushi because it gives the required kick. Good news is that it is easy to make at home. If it is your first time, you can start by making enough for a few rolls. When you get the hang of it, you may prepare more and use the rest as a dipping sauce.
To make the spicy sauce, mix two tablespoons of mayonnaise preferably kewpi, two tablespoons of the sriracha or any other spicy sauce of your choice. You can choose to add the lemon juice, and finally top off with two tablespoons of the sesame oil.
Mix all these ingredients in the bowl and store in the fridge if you are not using it right away. It does not matter how you store the sauce as long as it is convenient for you. You may put it in a squeeze bottle or store it away on a bowl inside the refrigerator.
Another good recipe for making the spicy sauce is to add shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, and chili oil together. Now, add shichimi (chili powder) and red pepper flakes to your taste.
Consider The Price Of Your Sushi
Price is a good indicator of whether the tuna used in your sushi roll is high quality or not. In some sushi bars or restaurants, they may use inexpensive tuna, which is basically Nakochi scrape, also known as the pink slime tuna.
In some places, restaurants purchase the cheap color enhanced tuna that does not have the same flavor or texture. If you want to enjoy a good quality spicy tuna roll, always purchase from a reputed grocery store or go to a top-grade sushi restaurant.
As a result, I suggest that you make your own spicy tuna sushi roll at home. It will not only cost you less but will also ensure that you have healthy and safe food on the table.
Health Benefits Of The Spicy Tuna Roll
- High in omega 3 and other fatty acids, the spicy tuna roll is an excellent Japanese cuisine that adds to health and life expectancy.
- Not only is it delicious, but it is also great for your health too. The tuna roll is low in calories and can add to many benefits. Japanese rice is an excellent source of protein and carbohydrates.
- Rice vinegar has excellent antibacterial properties, aids in digestion and reduces risks of high blood pressure.
- The soy sauce is high in iron, magnesium, protein and contains phytoestrogens which are known to treat menopause.
- The Nori is highly nutritious; It has Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and C. it prevents cholesterol build up on blood vessels.
How much tuna is too much?
As tuna has exceptionally high mercury levels, you should probably restrict it to two times a week or less. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should probably avoid it entirely because it could affect the baby.
How long does a spicy tuna roll last?
You should not store the tuna roll for more than a day if you want to keep its taste and freshness. The spicy tuna roll is made from raw tuna and the longer it stays out, the more it becomes susceptible to bacteria.
How much calories in a spicy tuna sushi roll?
As this sushi roll has more spice than the regular tuna roll, it has about 290 calories, 26 carbohydrates, 11 grams of fat, and 24 grams of protein. The addition of delicious mayonnaise and other sauces increase the calorie content.
What to do with the tuna leftovers?
If you insist on storing the leftover tuna roll, you should take precautions. First, make sure you cover the tuna rolls in a plastic wrap and seal it in an airtight container. Next, place the container in your refrigerator. Do not let it stay in the fridge for more than a day, or else it will be inedible.