A bowl of seasoned sushi rice topped with seafood – uni (sea urchin), ikura (cured salmon roe), slices of salmon, or crab meat – is a common sight on Hokkaido. So common, you can even get take-away versions at the airport, all wrapped up and ready to take on-board!
My dream rice bowl is half uni, half ikura, with perhaps a tiny dab of fresh wasabi. Where fresh uni are unavailable though, my second favourite bowl is as per the recipe below – piled with jewel-like ikura, and topped with a raw egg yolk and furikake* flakes. It’s very simple to make, but feels like an incredible indulgence to eat…
First though, an aside on uni, (and its enormous cross-cultural bonding powers!). I don’t speak any Japanese, except for some of the more important food words, and even then, only a select few. So when, while waiting in a queue in Hirafu, I overheard the group of Japanese students behind me discussing uni, I probably should not have butted in boldly with a heart-felt – ‘I love uni!’ (But I couldn’t help myself, such is its strange power). And in response, an equally heart-felt ‘we love uni!!’ was returned! Lots of companionable smiling and nodding ensued. So there you go – sea urchins, connecting people across great linguistic and cultural divides!
(Makes 2 small bowls)
- 1 cup sushi rice
- 1¼ cups water
- Small piece of konbu (dried kelp used for making dashi stock), – approx. 6x3cm
- 2 tablespoons seasoned sushi vinegar
- 125g ikura (Japanese cured salmon roe)
- 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce
- 2 very fresh egg yolks (optional)
- Sprinkle of furikake seasoning, or shredded nori (kizami nori), (to garnish)
*Furikake is a sprinkle made from a bunch of things, like nori, sesame seeds, ground shiso leaf, powdered soy, miso, dried egg, bonito flakes, salmon flakes etc. Vegetarian versions are also available.
Perfect sushi rice depends on how you wash and prepare the grains… First, wash the rice in several changes of cool water, agitating it with your hands, and draining through a colander until all the starch has been rinsed off and the washing water runs clear. Then, leave the rice in the colander to drain thoroughly for half an hour. Allowing the rice to fully dry before cooking is thought to improve the texture.
Once drained, place the rice, water, and konbu (you can make small incisions using a pair of scissors along the edge of the konbu if you’d like to release more flavour) in a small pot and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes, lid on, until all the water has been absorbed.
Next, remove the cooked rice to a wide ceramic bowl, spreading it out with a wooden spatula. Sprinkle the sushi vinegar over the top to season, and then stir using a slicing motion with the spatula until the rice has cooled to room temperature.
If your ikura are quite stuck-together, rinse them very gently in a little water to separate, and then drain. Season with the light soy sauce, using a wooden spoon to mix (metal utensils can affect the taste of the ikura).
When ready to serve, scoop the seasoned rice into two small bowls, and spoon the ikura over the top. Gently lower an egg yolk into the centre of each, nestling it amongst the roe, and then top with either furikake or shredded nori.