Scallop Sushi ~ Gunkan Maki Style
Tender and buttery, day-boat sea scallops from Maine are simply delightful with their slightly sweet flavors, and slightly briny hints of the sea. They are harvested by fishermen that go to work in the icy waters then return to port that same day.
Since the fishing trip is short, day-boat scallops do not need to sit on melting ice like longer expeditions, and therefore do not absorb water over the course of the trip. The taste is pure and natural, as the scallops are not bloated with water after harvest. These scallops are treated with the utmost care, and never soaked in a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate which is commercially used as a preservative but unfortunately degrades the quality of the scallop.
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Gunkan maki was invented in 1941 by Hisaji Imada, the chef/owner of restaurant Kyubey in Tokyo. His new-fangled presentation allowed for the sushi service of soft/loose toppings, such as sea urchin and fish roes. These toppings could not be served in the traditional nigiri style, which consists of a solid slice of raw fish atop an oblong rice ball.
The shape of the newly-developed sushi resembled that of a battleship, hence the name. Gunkan is battleship in Japanese, Maki means roll. Sushi rice is hand-formed into a cuboid, rolled/wrapped with nori, then a soft/loose filling is spooned into the interior.
Here our battleship is filled with diced raw day-boat scallop lightly tossed with Japanese mayonnaise and sea salt. Aromatic shiso adds complex herbal notes where a bit of pungent wasabi flavors the seasoned rice. To quote one of my favorite chefs on a famous seafood dish, “It was a morsel of perfection.”
Scallop Sushi Recipe
- 1 c. short grain rice, cook according to package
- 2 T. rice vinegar
- 1 T. sugar
- 1/2 t. salt
Place vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Microwave briefly until hot. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Let cool slightly.
Sprinkle vinegar mixture over just cooked rice and toss gently to combine. Prepare the maki when the rice is barely warmer than room temperature.
- sushi-quality day-boat sea scallops
- japanese or high-quality mayonnaise
- coarse sea salt
Remove the side muscle or “foot” from the scallops. Cut the scallops with a sharp knife into a small dice (but not too small). Mix the scallops with enough mayonnaise to coat. Season with sea salt. Refrigerate until ready to compose the gunkan maki.
- roasted seaweed sheets (nori)
Cut nori sheets into approximately 7″ long by 1 1/2″ wide strips. Some nori sheets already come with perforation lines, so slice the sheets along those lines.
Form the sushi rice by hand into cuboids approximately 2″ long, by 1 ” wide, by 1″ high. It helps to use wet hands.
Wrap the nori around the sushi rice, shiny side out. A tiny dab of water will help the end stick. Compress the top of the rice to form an indentation to hold the scallop mixture and mold the battleship into a perfect uniform shape. Spread a small amount of wasabi over the rice. Spoon the scallop mixture into the battleship.
- chiffonade of shiso leaves – use either the dark red/purple or green leaves
- edible flower petals (optional)
Top the scallop mixture with a fine chiffonade of shiso leaves. An edible flower petal adds a pop of color (these were marigolds).
- soy sauce
- pickled ginger
For a nice presentation, plate two pieces of gunkan maki with the seam side facing toward each other.
Serve with soy sauce for dipping and pickled ginger as a palate cleanser.
If shiso leaves are not available they can be replaced by an equal mix of basil and mint, very finely sliced.
Be sure to serve immediately, to keep the nori crisp. Otherwise, the moisture in the rice will soften the seaweed.
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