I developed this sweetheart sushi recipe years ago for a sweetheart in my life who was blown away by it. I’ve since served it many times on Valentine’s Day, at weddings and other super-special occasions. It’s always a huge hit.
Devin Alexander’s Sweetheart Sushi
4 slightly packed cups of freshly cooked sushi rice (also known as "cal-rose" rice; it’s short grain white rice—you need about 1-1/2 cups rice and 2 cups water)
1-1/2 pounds sashimi-grade ahi tuna
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon chili paste (look for it in the Asian aisle of major grocery stores)
2 teaspoons hot sesame oil
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 (8 x 7-1/2 inch) sheets pink soy paper (or seaweed if you can’t find the soy paper)
Prepared wasabi (optional)
Soy sauce or ponzu sauce (optional)
Allow cooked rice to cool to room temperature and transfer it to a medium bowl. Keep in mind, do not use leftover rice for sushi. It should always be made fresh and cooled, ideally for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, chop the tuna into very small pieces. Transfer it to a medium bowl and stir in the chili paste and sesame oil until well combined.
In a small bowl, stir the sugar and salt into the vinegar until it is dissolved. Hold a wooden spoon over the bowl of rice and pour the vinegar so that it runs down the spoon and is evenly distributed over the rice. Then stir the mixture. The rice should be sticky.
Next, place a sushi mat on a work surface so the wooden sticks that comprise it run horizontally. Place one sheet of soy paper on the sushi mat. Run your hands under cool water, shake them off so they’re moist, but not dripping, then scatter 1/4 of the rice (about 1 cup) evenly over the entire sheet of soy paper.
Press the rice in a thin even layer firmly over the soy paper so it is completely covered. (Remoisten your hands slightly if the rice starts to stick to them).
Spread 1/4 of the tuna mixture (about a heaping 3/4 cup) over about 1/2 of the rice starting from the edge closest to you. Press the tuna firmly into the rice.
Then pick up the end of the rolling mat and soy paper closest to you and roll it tightly to the rice on the far side then continue to roll it so the exposed rice wraps around the stuffed roll. Transfer the roll to a cutting board.
Run a very sharp knife with a thin, straight blade under cold water. Shake off any excess water then slice the roll into 12 equal slices. Lay the sushi pieces out flat on the cutting board.
Picturing a piece of sushi as a clock, place it so that the seam is at 6:00. Then, pinch the edge at 6:00 to form the pointed end of a heart. Use a toothpick to carefully press an indentation into the roll at 12:00 to form the top of the heart.
Lightly squeeze the sides at the bottom toward the point of the heart to press them into a "v." Repeat with each remaining piece. Then repeat the entire procedure three more times, using the remaining soy paper, rice, and tuna mixture.
Makes four rolls; eight servings. Each (six-piece serving) has 231 calories, 23 grams of protein, 27 grams carbohydrates (2 grams sugar), 2 grams fat, trace saturated fat, 46 milligrams cholesterol, <1 grams fiber, 138 milligrams sodium.
Note: Save money by seeking out an Asian specialty market in your area. Not only will you find unique, prepared sauces and foods, key Asian ingredients like sushi rice, wasabi, soy paper and even sake tend to be much less expensive when purchased there.
Devin Alexander is a celebrity chef who lives in Manhattan Beach, CA.