Uni-giri: an amuse bouche

So this was really the culmination of three of my favorite things to eat when I go to a sushi restaurant. Uni(sea urchin), rice, and eggs. And arguably, all three ingredients have wonderful synergy with one another, and definitely together. Raw eggs on rice is a staple in Japan, with the fluffy rice almost cooking the egg as you stir it and add in the furikake and ponzu. Uni and eggs just compliment each other so perfectly, since uni provides salinity, sweetness, and umami, while the egg acts as a vehicle to carry that flavor. Uni and rice, I mean, that’s literally seen all the time in sushi or risotto. With any of the three combinations, I do find that a bit of acidity helps with balancing out the fat, as well as obviously salt. While the uni is salty on its own, it still needs to be seasoned properly to bring out the more delicate notes in it. The name, “Uni-giri” is literally a play on a rice ball, which in Japanese is called “onigiri” and “uni” obviously being the Japanese word for sea urchin/what it is most commonly referred to as in cooking terminology. That and “nigiri”, which is a kind of sushi presentation with a rectangular piece of rice with a sliver of sashimi layered on top of it.

So for my components, it’s on the simpler side compared to some of the crazier things I’ve done in the past. We have koshihikari rice, prepared in sushi-rice style, a quail egg yolk, fresh uni, ponzu, and a gold leaf-yuzu veil. It’s simplier in that you really just have to prepare the ponzu, veil, and the rice, and the rest is sorted out for you. The veil, which is a thin layer of gelee, you don’t need the gold leaf, but I put it in there to be fancy, since uni is such a luxurious ingredient and I wanted to embrace how fancy it is. What? If I’m going to ball out and use uni, quail eggs, and yuzu, I might as well just take it home and put some gold leaf on there as well. Coincidentally, the dish can end up being gluten-free(if you use the right brand of soy sauce, since soy does contain gluten), since sushi itself is gluten-free inherently, and this has very few differences with traditional sushi.

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For the sushi rice:
1/4 cup koshihikari rice
2 cups water in four parts
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon mirin
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon yuzu juice

Rinse the rice with 1/4 cup water. Repeat a total of 5 more times, or until the water runs clear when you stir the rice. Fill a pot with the rinsed rice with 1/2 cup water. Either steam until a rice cooker to its instructions, or cover, and cook on low heat for about 17-20 minutes. Once cooked, remove and stir in the other ingredients while the rice is still warm before allowing it to cool down slightly.

For the veil:
3 tablespoons yuzu juice
gold leaf
3 tablespoons agar agar
2 tablespoons water
a pinch of salt

Bring everything but the gold leaf to a simmer until the agar is fully dissolves. Pour into a shallot container and stir in the gold leaf until it is broken up inside of the still-unset mixture. Transfer to a shallow by very wide plate and allow the mixture to set in a very thin layer to form your veil.

For the ponzu:

To garnish:
Fresh uni (I used Santa Barbara since I’m on the west coast)
Quail egg yolks (3 quail egg whites is about the same as 1 chicken egg white, so it’s worth saving them for future baking/cooking projects!)

Start with quenelling sushi rice (about 2 tablespoons per serving). Press a small indent, about the size of your thumb, into the middle of the quenelle, and place down on a plate. Place the quail egg yolk inside of the indent. Brush ponzu onto the uni, and place two tongues over the yolk. Finish with the veil on top before serving.

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