Deconstructed Sushi Rolls and Tuna Tartare

DeconstructedSushi[Jump right to the recipe: Tuna Tartare]

A year or so ago, I had a wild hair that it would be cool to take my favorite sushi rolls and created deconstructed versions of them to serve as an appetizer before an Asian-inspired dinner or as a refreshing nibble at a spring or summer party. The idea of the ingredients I usually find in my rolls piled up on a cucumber slice just sounded fun. And well, the variations on the theme are just endless, making it my kind of food idea. Even with all there was to recommend trying this idea out immediately, somehow it took me much longer to act on this idea than on most of my wild hairs. Recently, I finally rolled up my sleeves and tried my concept out, and a fun time was had by all in the kitchen and at the dining table.

As the picture shows, I experimented with two standard rolls: California and spicy tuna.

Roll Equations

The California roll is pretty straight forward: cucumber slice + rice + avocado + crab + sesame seeds. There’s not really any prep for any of the ingredients beyond mashing the avocado up a bit so it’s easier to keep on top of the rice. For the spicy roll I had to do two things:

  • Make the tuna spicy – hence the tuna tartare recipe you’ll find later in this blog.
  • Whip up a batch of spicy mayo to top it all off. My spicy mayo recipe is 4 parts mayo, 1 part sriracha, and a drizzle of honey or agave nectar.

With that prep work done, the spicy tuna roll = cucumber slice + rice + avocado + tuna tartare + spicy mayo + thin slice of green Thai pepper.

What about the Rice?

For both rolls, I cooked a cup of short grain sushi rice according to the package directions and then mixed the finished rice with a couple of tablespoons of seasoned rice wine vinegar. The rice needs to be cool before you can pile it on the cucumber slices, and the fast way to do this is to spread the seasoned rice on a sheet pan and stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. This also helps dry it out.

Useful Things to Know

As I was making my deconstructed rolls, I learned some things:

  • Just like sushi rolls, deconstructed sushi rolls are messy and time-consuming. This is not a reason not to make them, just a fact to consider. If you plan to make them for a crowd, enlist help and/or give yourself plenty of time.
  • Sushi rice sticks to everything. Keep your hands damp as you work.
  • Small cookie cutters or molds make it easier to stack and pack ingredients, just be sure you dip them in water so the rice doesn’t stick.
  • Buy big cucumbers to use as the base – I mean really big. Little English cukes just don’t work.
  • If the rice wants to slide off of the cucumber base, use a tiny bit of prepared wasabi as glue.
  • These rolls are best served pretty quickly after you make them. You could probably hold them in the fridge for maybe 30 minutes, but no more.

Recipe: Tuna Tartare


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer
  • Prep Time: 15min
  • Inactive Time: 30 min
  • Weight Watchers™ Points: 3


  • 8 oz. yellow fin tuna, sushi grade, cut into ¼ inch cubes
  • 4 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. mirin
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. prepared wasabi (plus more to taste)


  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 3.
  3. Serve on deconstructed sushi rolls, with wonton skins, in shooter glasses, or any other fun way you can come up with.

Recipe for Success

  • High quality, sushi grade tuna is a must for this recipe, not only for safety but for flavor. Be sure to source your tuna from a fish monger that you trust.
  • Freeze the fish for 15 minutes or so to make it easier to cut into cubes.

Yellowfin Tuna on Foodista Learn more about ahi tuna


  1. That tuna looks ridiculously good!

  2. If only I could somehow materialize those bites into my mouth in some 1980s science-fiction-ey, weird science way, I would!


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