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Appetizers

Spicy uni lardo sushi lettuce cups

Spicy uni lardo sushi lettuce cups
Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

The phone starts buzzing. It’s 6 a.m. Who is texting this early? The message reads: “12-pound bird. What temp? Stuffing in or out?” It is Thanksgiving, I realize. For the next several hours, my phone turns in to the de ... Read more

  • 1 tablespoon doubanjiang
  • 1 teaspoon red chile oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon mirin
  • 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup short-grain Japanese rice, such as Calrose
  • 24 Little Gem lettuce leaves or the 24 smallest leaves from 2 heads of butter lettuce (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 24 paper-thin, postage-stamp sized slices of lardo, 2 to 3 ounces
  • 24 lobes of sea urchin, about 6 ounces
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Step 1In a bowl, stir the doubanjiang, chile oil, ginger and black vinegar with 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.

Step 2In another bowl, combine the sugar, mirin, rice vinegar and salt. Set aside.

Step 3Cook the rice in a rice cooker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Alternatively, in a small saucepan, combine the rice with 1¼ cups 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.

Step 4Transfer 1 cup of the hot, cooked rice to a small bowl; reserve the rest for another use. While the rice is still hot, sprinkle the sugar, mirin, rice vinegar mixture over the rice and using a wooden paddle, mix to blend. While the rice is still warm, using wet hands, form the rice into 24 loosely packed 1/2-inch balls.

Step 5Arrange the 24 lettuce leaves on a platter.

Step 6In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rice balls and cook, turning, until crispy all over, about 12 minutes.

Step 7Wrap 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 doubanjiang sauce. Garnish with scallions. Serve immediately.

Note: Fresh sea urchin, also known as “uni,” can be found at select Japanese markets.

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