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Spicy Uni-Lardo Sushi in Lettuce Cups
© John Kernick

Spicy Uni-Lardo Sushi in Lettuce Cups

  • TOTAL TIME: 45 MIN
  • SERVINGS: Makes 24 bit-size cups
  • FAST

These lettuce cups are filled with surprising and boldly flavored ingredients—crisped balls of sushi rice wrapped in paper-thin sheets of lardo (pork fat) and topped with fresh uni (sea urchin).

  1. 3/4 cup short-grain Japanese rice
  2. 1 tablespoon tobanjan (see Note)
  3. 1 teaspoon red chile oil
  4. 1/8 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  5. 1/8 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar (see Note)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  7. 1/4 teaspoon mirin
  8. 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
  9. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  10. 2 heads butter lettuce (about 1 pound), 24 smallest leaves reserved
  11. 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  12. 24 paper-thin slices of lardo (see Note)
  13. 24 lobes of sea urchin (6 ounces; see Note)
  14. Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. Cook the rice in a rice cooker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Alternatively, in a small saucepan, combine the rice with 1 cup of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the water is absorbed, 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer 1 cup of the cooked rice to a small bowl; reserve the rest for another use.
  2. In a bowl, stir the tobanjan, chile oil, ginger and black vinegar with 1 tablespoon of water. In another bowl, combine the sugar, mirin, rice vinegar and salt and sprinkle it over the 1 cup of rice; mix well. Form the rice into 24 loosely packed 1/2-inch balls.
  3. Arrange the 24 lettuce leaves on a platter. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the rice balls and cook over moderately low heat, turning, until crispy all over, 6 minutes. Wrap a slice of lardo around each warm rice ball and set in a lettuce cup. Top each with a lobe of sea urchin and dab with the tobanjan sauce. Garnish with scallions and serve.
Notes Tobanjan (spicy, fermented broad-bean paste, also sold as doubanjiang) and Chinese black vinegar are available at Asian food stores. Look for uni (sea urchin) at Japanese markets. Lardo is available at specialty and Italian food stores.

Suggested Pairing

Bright, minerally Blanc de Blancs Champagne.