Korean Sashimi Rice Recipe
I love to cook, but on hot summer days, turning on the stove is just about the last thing I want to do. People who don’t cook don’t understand just how much hotter your environment is when you’ve got that stove going when it’s 100 degrees outside.
On those days, it’s time to hit up the Japanese market to get some fresh, raw fish to make this Korean Sashimi Rice Recipe–a Korean bibim-bap-like dish called Hwae Dup Bab (회덮밥), extremely popular dish in Korea. It requires no cooking whatsoever, and everything you touch will be cold except the rice–perfect for a summer day! I’ll refer to it as Korean Sashimi Rice for the purpose of this recipe post, but what we’re making is the Korean dish.
In Hwae Dup Bab, the “bab” or “bap” means rice, just like bibim-bap. “Hwae” is raw fish, and “dup” indicates “over” — like raw fish over rice.
Most of the time, I’ll only buy fish for raw consumption at Japanese markets. This is sushi-grade fish that is usually packaged in smaller, edible amounts. Occasionally, if it looks and smells clean, I’ll buy it at the Korean market. Never will I buy raw fish no matter the grade at the Chinese market. The Chinese market is wonderful–don’t get me wrong–but that is just not somewhere I buy fish that I’m feeding my loved ones without cooking. Call it a prejudice or call it safety–but it’s the Koreans and Japanese who have lots of raw fish dishes, not the Chinese, so I just assume that the fish offered for raw consumption at Korean or Japanese markets will always be fresher.
The beauty is that Korean Sashimi Rice recipe is adjustable to your own preferences. It matters very little what types of fish you buy so long as it can be consumed raw and is fresh, and you can use as many or as little as one type of greens as the bedding to the fish. You can use a little bit of fish or a lot of fish–it’s all up to you. I have made it countless times in my life and I doubt I make it the same way twice. The only requirements are raw fish, some type of greens and rice–and a great sauce.
Note that those four essential items are also the main things that determine the taste of the entire dish.
[alert type=blue ]*Note that sometimes, I’ll use a quail egg on top. But I do not use a regular egg yolk–the egg is more for appearance and has to be small and meaningless in the dish; this dish does not taste good if an entire egg yolk is broken into it. Also, with an oyster on top — it’s lovely, but again, you do not want to mix in a large amount of oysters which changes everything in this dish; it’s merely put on top for effect and for someone to just plop it into their mouths before mixing.[/alert]
How to Make Korean Sashimi Rice
Step 1: Prepare the Sticky Rice
Before preparing anything, the first step is to prepare the rice. It’s crucial that you use sticky rice for this; if there is one dish not meant to be served with Uncle Ben’s or long-grain rice, this is it. I normally use 1 cup of cooked rice per person–but this will depend on the size of your appetite. While the taste and flavor of the rice will be important, it’s not supposed to be the largest part of this dish. Also, keep in mind the size of your bowl. Proportionally, the rice should be no more than 1/4 of the dish.
For this example I’m using about 3 cups of cooked sticky rice. Note that the full recipe is at the bottom of the post.
To prepare the rice into sushi rice, I add the following while it’s piping hot:
- 1/2 T of Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 T of vinegar
Mix it all into the rice while it’s hot, ensuring that the sugar and salt are completely absorbed. When you taste it, it should offer a distinct sourness but nothing overwhelming. The sushi rice is essential in making the flavors of the fish pop.
So as not to let it dry out and get hard, lightly put a piece of saran wrap over it but don’t seal it tight. I want some of the moisture escaping but I don’t want the rice to get dry. I also need the rice to completely cool down.
Step 2: Prepare the Fish
For this post, I’m keeping it simple because (1) I suddenly decided to make this dish tonight, and (2) that meant I’m limited to my Japanese store in town or I’d need to head to Oakland or Sacramento to get everything I need. And while I wanted to do a thorough post, I didn’t feel like going anywhere far and technically, the very basics being included is the main thing here. You can fancy this up as much as you’d like.
I always use red leaf lettuce, and preferably one other item. Best of all is shiso leaves as shown, but if you don’t have that, thinly sliced kale or chrysanthemum leaves would work–something that imparts more than just green texture but actual aromas and flavor. But if all you have is red leaf lettuce, that’s fine. Worst case, even iceberg lettuce works okay, though it has even less taste than red leaf lettuce.
Some other veggie options I will use occasionally are julienned cucumbers, carrots (though I’m not a fan of carrots in general and the dish really has enough orange/red tones), thinly sliced Serrano peppers, clover sprouts, green onions or Romaine lettuce.
When it comes to shiso, I prefer Korean shiso leaves in this dish–but this year, I’m not gardening which means I’d have to go to the Korean market to get Korean shiso, and as mentioned, my one trip was to the Japanese store. So when in Japan..
For the fish, all the market had left by the time we got there was tuna, yellowtail, salmon and octopus. I normally like some ikura (salmon roe), sea urchin (uni), or squid (ika) available but my little store had none of that. Also great to add is mackerel, which offers the fishiest taste of all. I almost always add octopus (tako) because not only does it offer a significantly different texture, but it has a unique flavor that contrasts with the other typical fish flavors. But really, anything will do–I’ve even made this with fresh, raw lobsters I caught!
Traditionally, Korean hwae dup bab usually uses halibut in Korea, or gwang-uh. The problem with that fish is that it alone doesn’t have a loud taste so the dish ends up being eaten more for the taste of the sauce than the fish. Using more expensive cuts like tuna, yellowtail and salmon will raise the price per person but it makes for an exponentially better bowl of Korean Sashimi Rice.
This is obviously the bulk of the cost for this meal. For tonight’s dinner, the cost of the fish was $55–and I didn’t use one chunk of tuna shown unsliced in the back. On average, if you’re buying fresh fish, you can price is out at about $10-20 per serving for this meal. Obviously, if you buy cheaper cuts of fish like tilapia or just mackerel, you’ll stay closer to $10 per person, and the higher end fish you buy, you can easily exceed $20 per person.
This is also the reason why homemade Korean Sashimi Rice will always be better than that served at Korean or Japanese restaurants. With hwae dup bab, most places use end cuts or leftover chunks of fish after making sushi, or worse, fish frozen and defrosted for the purpose of offering hwae dup bab. Meanwhile at home, you buy actual cuts of fresh fish and use whole, fresh chunks so the flavor will always be significantly better than the dishes you get at restaurants, normally priced above $20 per person.
You want slightly longer pieces so that each bite contains a good chunk fish. I halved each chunk of fish I had horizontally and then sliced each piece lengthwise into 1cm wide slices. For the octopus, I thinly slice them to prevent them from being too chewy, but with properly cooked octopus, they are surprisingly juicy and tender. Don’t go too paper thin because the whole purpose of adding octopus is the added texture.
I almost always have some tobiko (flying fish roe) in my fridge, so I scooped some out into a bowl and let it defrost, which takes all of ten minutes. I’d prefer salmon roe, but I never freeze salmon roe, which means I don’t have it on-hand unless I was able to find it at the store.
Put all fish aside and if your kitchen is not cool, wrap in saran wrap and store in the fridge until you’re done. The fish has to be cold!
Step 3: Prepare the ingredients
This is one dish where garlic shines and using as much as you want only makes the fish better.
I’m using about 16 cloves of garlic for this dinner. About 10 of them, I diced into small pieces. The remaining six were sliced thinly as shown above towards the top left.
I use all of the thinly sliced garlic into the bowl, tossed in as-is, and the diced garlic into the sauce. If you don’t like garlic as much as I do, it’s still essential in this dish, but I’d bring it down to 2 completely minced garlic in the sauce and none in the actual dish (in other words, no thinly sliced garlic). But don’t skip the garlic–with only two you won’ t necessarily taste it if you mince it down enough but the dish is nothing special without it.
And besides, you have to expand your taste buds if you don’t like garlic! How? Why?
Slice the shiso and red leaf lettuce into semi-thin strips. You can’t really get too thin, but there comes a point when each piece is too big and obnoxious. Just try to slice them evenly and you’re good to go. You can see the small stack of shiso in the background.
Step 4: Make the Sauce
Aside from the fish, the main flavor in Korean Sashimi Rice is the sauce.
Traditional Korean Sashimi Rice will always use a red sauce based on Korean chili paste–and the fact of the matter is that your sauce will only be as good as your paste. This is the one I use most often when I’m using store-bought–best in overall flavor with good versatility and just regular in price, though it will be around $8-15 if you buy it at a Korean market instead of Amazon. It tends to often go on sale.
None of the store bought gochujang is inedible–most are just fine. Some, like this one, are particularly good–but the really fantastic gochujang is homemade. I don’t know how to make it but there are a couple of ladies who do make it at home, and when I’m in Southern California, I’ll usually make an effort to buy homemade gochujang. Otherwise, the Sunchang Gochujang is really quite good. Unlike others, it’s not as sweet (which is easily fixed in any dish) and the flavors are smooth but distinct.
The gochujang-based sauce we’re making now is cho-gochujang, which literally means vinegar gochujang. The vinegar not only adds the sour notes, but the liquid necessary to make a more mixable sauce. Restaurants will often add additional liquid to make the sauce “pourable” out of a bottle but it’s neither necessary nor preferred; once you liquify it enough w/ vinegar, it’s mixable.
Here’s how you make it.
Take a small bowl and toss in all of the garlic and use 1/2 C of gochujang. Add 1/4 C of sugar, 1/4 C of rice or apple cider vinegar, 1 T of prepared wasabi (horseradish) and 1/4 C of either ginger ale, 7-Up or Sprite. This is all I add, but if you want it even more runnier, then adjust the amount of Sprite up. (I used Sprite, but any of the above drinks works.) Worst case, you can also add regular water and it doesn’t make that big of a difference; in fact, I’d guess that’s how it’s originally made. But the carbonation in the soda drinks helps to make the sauce sparkle just a little, though at 1/4 C, it’s hardly enough to make a huge difference. If you have it, use it. If you don’t, use water.
Also, the wasabi that I add is entirely optional and does not go in the traditional hwae-dup-bab sauce. I like the kick of horseradish so I use it for this dish, but in my regular cho-gochujang, I never use horseradish.
This amount of sauce is good for up to 4-5 people, so I usually just dump a little bit into a separate bowl and store the rest for a later date. It stores for…well, I don’t even know how long because I’ve never seen this go bad, but then again, it also rarely lasts that long as you can use it for virtually anything. But in tonight’s case, my purpose for making this was the Korean Sashimi Rice, and because I knew it’d be gone by tomorrow, I prepped everything on the same cutting board that had cut the fish, so I’m not planning on storing it. (It’d already gone at the time of this writing because I ate it with the leftover tuna!)
Step 5: Plating
You’re now done with prepping. See? Not a lick of fire or heat, and all just knife work. Beautiful summer food!
The other great thing about this dish is that ultimately, while you can make it pretty–you could really just throw it all into a bowl and it would still look pretty thanks to the green and reddish colors.
Now keep in mind the rice has cooled down and is close to room temperature at this point.
Take one cup of rice and spread it out thinly at the bottom of the plate.
Lay down the sliced lettuce. For this, I usually take a fistful and place it on top. Note that with a regular head of red leaf lettuce, I used about 3/4 of the head of lettuce. Just take a fistful and plot it down on the rice, covering the rice entirely. The green background is pretty, but the thick layer of lettuce also protects the fish that is about to go on top from any remaining heat in the rice.
Next up, the layer of shiso leaves. Whatever you have prepared, just divide into the right portions and use all of it. You cannot have too many shiso leaves in this dish, at least not as far as I’m concerned. Yum.
And then all that’s left to do is pile the fish on top! This is when I’ll toss in the sliced garlic, Jalapeno or Serrano peppers, and anything else that I’m putting in.
It goes without saying that the more fish you have, the better your dish will taste. I try to use as much as will fit after the rice and lettuce go in, while still enabling the person to be able to MIX the bowl, since that’s the vital final step.
Finally, you add the sauce on top and sprinkle with some sesame seeds. MOST IMPORTANT HERE is that you drizzle sesame oil all over the top. In this case, I’ve used about a full tablespoon of sesame oil, which balances out the slightly sour and slightly sweet taste of the sauce and enriches the overall flavor of the dish. Hwae dup bab without sesame oil is…crap.
And below, I just tossed everything else on the cutting board on top regardless of whether it was too much.
The appearance of the food is only as good as getting the “Oh, how pretty!” remark, because to eat this dish, you will do the following:
I used 2T of sauce for the original photos but by the time I mixed it in, I needed 4 T to get the seasoning right. Keep in mind that the kind of fish you use will determine who much sauce you need, so I’ll always put too little on top before putting too much. If you used fish like mackerel (saba) which is cured, then it’s much saltier than plain halibut, for instance. If you use salmon roe, that, too, is quite salty. So adjust as needed while mixing.
Remember how I had that one chunk of tuna leftover?
Well, the next day for lunch, I decided to make another bowl with just plain tuna. As I said, you technically only require one bowl. Since Mr K. had thrown out the extra sauce I had made, I made some soy sauce with extra wasabi, sliced up some peppers, poured some Sriracha on top and went to town. This is more inline with chirashi, I suppose, but it’s nonetheless just as tasty as hwae dup bab.
Other than the addition of some vinegar rice, it’s about as healthy of a meal as you’re going to get–and while it’s a lot of greens, it’s deceivingly filling, too.
Seriously, it’s so easy even a caveman could do it. And because of the ingredients, it looks quite fancy and always looks like you put in a lot of work–but no, from start to finish it’s a max of 20 minutes if you slice at a normal rate. If you make some miso soup, it’s a perfect meal to prepare and share with a large group of friends, though the cost of the fish is significant.
If there’s anything I haven’t addressed, leave a comment below and I’m happy to answer any questions.
- For the sushi rice:
- 3 C cooked rice
- 1 T vinegar
- ½ T salt
- For the sauce:
- 10-16 cloves of garlic
- ½ C chili pepper paste (gochujang)
- ½ C vinegar
- ¼ C sugar
- ¼ C of Sprite, 7-Up or Gingerale (or replace with water)
- 1 T wasabi *optional
- 1.5 lb -- At least 1 type of sushi-grade raw fish
- Roe *optional
- *See post for specific fish types
- Red leaf lettuce
- Shiso leaves
- *Optional Items
- Clover Sprouts
- Romaine Lettuce
- Prepare the rice, combining all ingredients. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Prepare all the ingredients - following directions in the post.
- Prepare the sauce, combining all ingredients and ensuring all of the sugar is absorbed into the sauce.
- Prepare fish by slicing into strips.
- Layer 1C of rice in a large serving bowl
- Layer a fistful of greens on top of rice
- Lay 1 portion of fish on top, topping with roe, if desired
- Lay thinly sliced garlic, peppers, etc. on top as garnish
- Scoop 2T of sauce on top
- Serve immediately