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Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice (Nobu)

This Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice recipe is a shameless copycat of a signature appetiser at the trendy Nobu restaurant. Bite size crispy rice is served with tuna in a creamy spicy dressing. I love it. It’s expensive. So I copied it. And added a canned tuna option too. 🙂

Spicy tuna crispy rice ready to be eaten
Or toppings as finger food!

Nobu copycat: Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice

There’s no feel-good story behind today’s recipe. It’s just a blatant fact that I really love the Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice at Nobu* which is a signature starter of this globally renowned restaurant. But you pay through the nose for it – $30 for a very small serving. Here it is at Melbourne Nobu – top quality phone snaps! 😂

* In case you’re not familiar with Nobu, it’s a trendy modern Japanese restaurant founded by world-famous chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa that is now global with a presence in major cities like New York, Tokyo, London, Dubai, Sydney. Won’t lie – I’ve had hits and misses in various cities. But overall, it’s very reliable. Firm favourite with celebrities.

Price aside, I don’t want to go to Nobu every time I want to have it. So I decided to copy it. It seemed like a simple enough recipe – and it is! Crispy rice topped with raw finely chopped tuna mixed with a creamy spicy dressing.

Pile of Crispy rice cakes
The crispy rice cakes. See separate recipe here.
Plate of Spicy tuna crispy rice
Platter with a mix of raw and canned spicy tuna on crispy rice cakes.

Nobu vs my version

At Nobu, the rice is served in small cube form which you stab with (fancy) toothpicks then dip into the tuna which is so finely minced it is like a spread. Based on the perfect golden colour on each side of the rice cubes, I suspect they are deep fried.

I’ve made my rice cakes flatter so they can be pan fried instead of deep fried, and pre-assembled with the toppings. I also do not have a dipping sauce because I’ve incorporated seasonings in the tuna toppings.

Plus, I’ve made a canned tuna version as well, as an option you make right now instead of going out to find sashimi-grade tuna! Think – canned tuna fillings in sushi rolls. It’s really tasty! This is the canned tuna version:

Spicy tuna crispy rice - canned tuna version
The canned tuna version. It’s like tuna sushi roll filling – really tasty!

What you need

Here’s what you need to make this Nobu copycat Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice.

1. Sashimi tuna or salmon – OR canned!

As mentioned above, the base recipe is a copy-cat of the Nobu version which is made with raw sashimi-grade tuna, Plus, I’ve created a canned tuna version too as an easier make it now version / those who can’t get or don’t like raw tuna. It’s like the canned tuna filling you get in sushi rolls – it’s really tasty!

Tuna for Spicy tuna crispy rice

Sashimi grade tuna – To make the raw tuna version, you will need to get sashimi grade tuna. This is tuna that is fresh enough, handled and stored in a manner suitable for eating raw. It is more expensive than tuna intended for cooking.

Common sashimi tuna types

  • Bluefin tuna – the frontrunner, most premium type. For flavour, colour and texture.

  • Yellowfin and bigeye tuna (ahi ahi) – The more common type that is more economical. It is softer, not as red.

Canned tuna – Tuna in oil is best. If using tuna in spring water, the mixture is a little drier so perhaps add extra mayo.

2. Spicy creamy dressing & assembling

Here’s what you need to make the creamy dressing and for assembling. The same ingredients are used for both, it’s just that you need more for the canned tuna (lots of little tuna bits = more surface area = more dressing required).

Ingredients in Spicy tuna crispy rice
  • Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese mayonnaise that has a smoother flavour than Western ones. Substitute with whole egg mayonnaise. Normal mayonnaise (ie not labelled “whole-egg”) is tangier / sweeter which will dominate the raw tuna version too much but ok for the canned tuna version.

  • Sriracha is a red Asian spicy sauce that has other flavours in it in addition to chilli, such as vinegar and garlic. Substitute with other spicy sauce of choice, but adjust quantity based on spiciness.

    Non spicy option – Ketchup!

  • Green onion – For nice green specks and a bit of freshness.

  • Sesame oil & seeds – For toasty sesame flavour!

  • Lemon – For the canned tuna version, I found a hint of extra tang was desirable. For the raw tuna version, fresh lemon juice made the dressing a little too loose so I stick with using the tang in sriracha.

  • Avocado – Optional (and not in Nobu’s version), but I really like how it adds an extra creamy element. If avocado is not in season or pricey, I’d skip it.

Crispy rice

All you really need for the crispy rice is sushi rice, oil for cooking and salt for seasoning. But it makes it extra tasty to flavour the rice with sushi rice seasoning – just rice vinegar and sugar.

Ingredients in Crispy rice

See the separate crispy rice recipe for commentary on the ingredients.

How to make Nobu’s crispy rice with spicy tuna

The crispy rice cakes has been published as a separate recipe – because it’s deemed worthy as such! It’s really easy – cook rice, press in pan, chill to set, cut, pan fry.

So the steps below are for the topping and assembling.

1. Nobu spicy tuna topping

Tip: Raw fish is hard to finely dice because it is so soft. To make it (much!) easier, partially freeze the fish first to make it firmer. Just 30 minutes in the freezer.

How to make Spicy tuna crispy rice
  1. Partially freeze the raw tuna (or salmon) in the freezer for 30 minutes. This will make it much easier to cut.

  2. Cut into small 0.5cm / 1/5″ dice. To do this, I slice 0.5cm / 1/5″ thick pieces, then 0.5cm / 1/5″ strips, then dice.

  3. De-chill the fish for 20 minutes or so, so it’s not ice-cold. Sushi tastes best when at room temperature which is around 18C/65F. Small diced tuna will de-chill fairly quickly.

  4. Mix – Add the mayonnaise, sriracha, green onion, sesame oil, sesame seeds and salt. Mix gently to combine. Then refrigerate until required. But remember to aim for the room temperature for serving! Warm crispy rice cakes with ice-cold tuna isn’t ideal. 🙂

Creamy canned tuna topping

How to make Spicy tuna crispy rice
  1. Mash the drained canned tuna with a fork until it’s really fine. The finer the better.

  2. Add everything else and mix!

3. Assembling the crispy rice cakes

Nobu serves this as a DIY set up with cubes of rice that is speared with fancy toothpicks then dunked into the spicy tuna which is almost in paste-like form. I like to assemble for an easy finger food option.

Also, cubes of rice either need to be turned 6 times in a pan (what a pain!) or deep fried (what a pain!). Pan frying 2 sides of a flatter pieces is so much less effort!

  1. Cook the rice cakes after you’ve mixed the toppings. See directions in the crispy rice cakes recipe.

  2. Avocado – Place on a serving platter and top with avocado slices. You can either use 1 large, or fan out smaller pieces as I have done. You could also pipe on avocado sauce – a good option for speedy assembling if making big batches.

  3. Shape – Use 2 teaspoons to shape a mound of the topping into a “football” shape so it sticks together.

  4. Assemble – Place tuna on avocado. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, top with jalapeño. Repeat with remaining rice cakes. EAT!

Picking up Spicy tuna crispy rice
Overhead photo of Spicy tuna crispy rice

I see you making this for friends who come round for Saturday night drinks. Impressing the pants off your friends at book club. For your mum’s birthday lunch.

And just generally because you want to eat Nobu in the comfort of your own home, in trackies and your favourite slouchy t-shirt, and feel smug that it cost you around…oh I don’t know. About 80% less? At least!! – Smug Nagi x

Watch how to make it

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Picking up Spicy tuna crispy rice

Crispy rice with spicy tuna (Nobu copycat)

Servings15 pieces

Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. A shameless copycat of a signature Nobu restaurant appetiser – crispy rice cakes with tuna or salmon in a creamy spicy dressing. Easy to make at a fraction of the cost – they charge $30 for a minuscule serving! Serve as a canapé, starter for dinner or as a main with an Asian side salad or smashed cucumbers.The original uses raw tuna but I’ve also created a canned tuna version – think, sushi roll filling.


Creamy spicy canned tuna topping:


  • Start the rice the day before or first thing in the morning – it needs minimum 4 hours to chill.

  • Make the toppings first, then refrigerate while you cook the crispy rice cakes.

  • Cook the crispy rice cakes and sprinkle with salt per the recipe.

  • Assemble – Place rice cakes on a serving platter. Pile on toppings – I use teaspoons to make football shapes then slide on. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds, top with jalapeño. Eat!

Nobu spicy tuna topping:

  • Freeze to firm – Place tuna in the freezer for 30 minutes to partially freeze – it’s much easier to finely chop when slightly firm.

  • Cut into 0.5cm / 1/2″ cubes – the smaller the better! Place into a bowl and let it de-chill for 20 minutes (not as nice ice-cold).

  • Mix – Add everything into the tuna and mix until combined.

Creamy canned tuna (sushi-roll filling style):

Recipe Notes:

Makes 15 pieces 4 x 6.5cm/ 1.5 x 2.5″ (crispy rice dimensions).
1. Tuna or salmon – As the fish is served raw, please ensure you get sashimi grade tuna which is extra fresh, handled and stored in a manner suitable for eating raw. It will be labelled as such at the shops. You can also get frozen sashimi grade fish these days. It’s snap deep-frozen at -60C and suitable for eating raw. I’ve gotten it from Japanese supermarkets in Sydney (Tokyo-mart, Northbridge).
2. Sriracha is a red Asian spicy sauce that has other flavours in it in addition to chilli, such as vinegar and garlic. Substitute with other spicy sauce of choice, but adjust quantity based on spiciness.
Non spicy option – Ketchup!
3. Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese mayonnaise that has a smoother flavour than Western ones. Substitute with whole egg mayonnaise. 
4. Canned tuna – in oil is best. Springwater tends to be a little dry.
5. Leftovers – Once assembled, rice cakes will soften within an hour. The raw tuna topping should be eaten within an hour once out of the fridge, though will keep in the fridge for the day. Canned tuna topping mixture will keep for several days. Makes a little more than you need – eat leftover as dip or on sandwiches!
Nutrition per rice cake (15 pieces)

Life of Dozer

Crispy rice cake size context.

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