When you’re sitting at the sushi bar trying to identify all the things in the case, uni (aka sea urchin roe) is an easy one: It’s those small golden tongues arranged in a wooden box. The sea urchin has five chambers within its shell, and each chamber contains one of these tongues (which are gonads and not roe). You need two urchins to get the 10 tongues for this recipe. You can almost always buy them at Tokyo Fish in Berkeley, California, but try asking your local fishmonger if they are able to get them. Helping to raise demand for this delectable seafood at the market is the best way you can help save our kelp forests.
Serves 4–6 as an appetizer
10 uni tongues (sea urchin roe)
2 cups sushi rice
2 tablespoons mirin (or to taste)
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 small package nori sheets (You’ll have plenty left over.)
½ cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon wasabi powder
Oil for frying (We like to use rice bran oil.)
Yuzu ponzu sauce
2 scallions, sliced into thin strips and set in ice water to curl
Rinse rice until water runs clear. Place rice in a cooking pot (or rice cooker) with enough water to cover plus a little extra (about 1:1.25 ratio rice to water). Add mirin and salt to taste. If using a rice cooker, use your usual setting for white rice and watch to make sure rice doesn’t dry out. You want it to be a little wet and sticky for this purpose. If using the stove, start cooking rice on high heat, stirring every minute or so until water boils. Then turn heat to low and cover the pot. After 6 to 8 minutes, check whether rice has absorbed all the water. If water remains, cook a little longer, but be careful that rice is not burning on the bottom of the pot. Let rice cool to room temperature. (Rice can be made ahead.)
To make the nori tostadas, combine cornstarch and wasabi powder in a shallow bowl with enough water to make a thin batter. Start with ½ cup water and add more as you work to maintain consistency.
Heat oil on medium-high in a skillet to just below smoke point. Dip each nori square in the batter to lightly coat and fry in oil until golden and firm like a chip (less than 30 seconds). Set fried nori chips on paper towels to drain.
Scoop 1 tablespoon rice onto each nori tostada. Add a dash of yuzu ponzu on top of rice and then top with an uni tongue and a garnish of scallion curls.
Serve and enjoy!