You'll be amazed that you can make this super-crispy, amazingly fresh nigiri at home

It's never been easier to make a simple, delicious raw fish preparation at home. You'll love the crispy rice cake!

Published May 2, 2023 3:30PM (EDT)

Tuna Nigiri with Rice Cakes and Harissa (Union Square & Co. / Andrew Thomas Lee)
Tuna Nigiri with Rice Cakes and Harissa (Union Square & Co. / Andrew Thomas Lee)

Reprinted with permission from Good Catch: A Guide to Sustainable Fish and Seafood with Recipes from the World's Oceans by © 2023 Valentine Thomas. Published by Union Square & Co.

Okay, controversial take here: I used to think that the rice served with nigiri, or raw slices of fish, was a waste of stomach space. But when those same balls of sweet sushi rice are pan-seared until crispy and golden, then brushed with a harissa sauce—genius and necessary. And it makes me that much more grateful to think of how the Marshall Islanders are making sure that our tuna populations stay happy and healthy. 

Valentine ThomasValentine Thomas (Tyler Sharp)

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Valentine ThomasValentine Thomas (John Kowitz)

Tuna Nigiri with Rice Cakes and Harissa     
06 servings
Prep Time
25 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes


2 cups cooked sushi rice 

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon harissa paste 

1 teaspoon ras el hanout (see Note) 

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 

1/4 cup vegetable oil, for cooking 

12 ounces raw tuna, sliced sashimi-style 

1 dried nori sheet, minced, for garnish




  1. In a medium bowl, add the sushi rice and the rice wine vinegar, then gently mix to combine. 

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press the sushi rice onto the sheet to form a 1-inch by 1 1/2 -inch-thick rectangle. (You may need a tiny bit of water on your hands to prevent the sushi rice from sticking.)

  3. Using a wet knife, cut out bite-size rectangles that are about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide. 

  4. In a small bowl, add the harissa paste, ras el hanout, and apple cider vinegar, then whisk until well combined. 

  5. Line a large plate or a platter with paper towels. In a medium sauté pan set over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil. Once the pan is hot, add a couple of pieces of the rice cutouts to the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the fried rice cakes to the paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining rice cutouts, refreshing the oil as needed.

  6. To serve, place the crispy rice cakes on a serving platter and use a pastry brush to brush some of the harissa mixture onto each cake, then top each with a slice of sashimi and garnish with the minced nori sheets.

Reprinted with permission from Good Catch: A Guide to Sustainable Fish and Seafood with Recipes from the World's Oceans by © 2023 Valentine Thomas. Published by Union Square & Co. 

Valentine ThomasValentine Thomas (Brandon Wahlers)

Cook's Notes

Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that you can find in some grocery stores and most specialty shops or Middle Eastern markets. However, if you can't find it, just substitute equal parts ground coriander, ground ginger, and paprika.

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By Valentine Thomas

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