Summer Fridays: Ahi Tuna Sushi Cups + Homemade Soy Sauce

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I’ll be honest, I never really had any interest in visiting Asia before I was told I would be going to Japan for a business trip last September. And I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way at all—I was just more focused on exploring other places and the language barrier was a tad bit intimidating. Little did I know what I was missing out on.

Turns out Japan is pretty incredible. Okay, really incredible. Tokyo is hands down one of the most fascinating, if not most fascinating, places I’ve ever traveled to. I was immediately intrigued by a culture so different from my own and found it freeing to be unable to remotely come close to piecing together the language. The language barrier forced me to truly immerse myself in everything Tokyo had to offer experientially. From the food to the fashion, I was hooked.

                                             Lost in translation

I returned to the states with my infatuation for Japan in full swing and I started plotting a return trip with my husband in tow. Fortunately, Jake was onboard with planning a trip, as was my brother, and we’re shooting for next year.

As part of the planning process, I thought it would be fun to dive in and learn more about Japanese food. Fortunately, San Francisco is home to the largest and one of only three Japantowns in the U.S. This has enabled access to Nijiya Market, which offers an array of Japanese ingredients to help with our education.

             Nijiya Market in San Francisco’s Japantown

One of my first forays into Japanese cooking was a complete and utter failure, but we’ll save that story for another time. Another attempt involved making ahi sushi tuna cups, which is the recipe I’d like to share with you today. Granted, many Japanese would probably say this recipe is not Japanese, but it’s an easier recipe to help get you comfortable with Japanese ingredients, such as sushi rice, as you ramp up.

An added bonus? A homemade soy sauce recipe we learned in the sushi making class Jake, my brother, and I took together last weekend. Be on the lookout for a post on what we learned plus additional recipes soon!


Ahi Tuna Sushi Cups
Serves: 6
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Chill time: 30 to 40 minutes

Muffin tin
Parchment paper

1 cup sushi rice, rinsed well
8 tsp. rice vinegar, divided
1 tbsp. sugar
1 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. kosher salt, divided
Cooking spray
2 tbsp. soy sauce (see recipe for homemade soy below)
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup cubed, seeded, peeled cucumber
1 lb. raw sushi-grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large diced avocado
1/2 tbsp. black sesame seeds, lightly toasted

  1. Combine rice and 1 1/4 cups of water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed (do not uncover while cooking). Remove the pan from heat; let stand covered 10 minutes.
  2. While rice stands, combine 2 tbsp. vinegar and sugar in small microwave-safe bowl (or if you don’t have a microwave like me, put in a small saucepan); microwave on high 30 to 45 seconds or until boiling (or bring to a boil in small saucepan). Stir mixture with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add cream cheese and 1/2 tsp. salt to bowl, stirring with a whisk to combine. Gently fold vinegar mixture into rice using a rubber spatula; let stand 5 minutes. 
  3. Generously coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. Lightly coat each of 12 (5-inch square) parchment paper pieces with cooking spray; press paper squares into muffin cups to form a liner. Using moistened hands, press rice mixture evenly along bottom and sides of muffin cups (about 21/2 tablespoons rice per cup). If the rice starts to stick to your fingers, lightly moisten your hands again. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes. 
  4. Combine remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, soy sauce, oil, and red pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add cucumber, tuna, onions, and avocado to bowl. Toss gently to combine. 
  5. Divide tuna mixture evenly among rice cups; sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds. Gently remove cups from pan by lifting parchment paper edges.

Homemade Soy Sauce
Time: 30 minutes

2/5 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. mirin
1/2 oz. bonito flake
4 tsp. tamari soy sauce
4 tsp. sake
1/2 inch wide kelp
1/2 oz. thick cut bonito flake

  1. Combine all ingredients into a small pot.
  2. Turn the heat high and let it boil.
  3. Reduce the heat low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Cool down for 15 minutes and strain.
  5. Keep the soy sauce in a fridge to store.

Are you a seafood fan? Check out last week’s Summer Friday recipe for easy (and delicious) seafood stew.


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