Sushi Reimagined: Spicy Shrimp Stacks


Oh, how I DO love to change things up! And, this recipe is no different.

I’ll make a confession: I’m terrible at rolling sushi. I can’t seem to get the rolls tight enough or even enough, and, frankly, they have another problem: they are too predictable.

Spicy Shrimp Sushi Stacks

What do I mean about that? Well, typical sushi is rice (gotta have rice or it’s not sushi!) and other ingredients, frequently rolled in something, like, certainly nori (dried seaweed), or something else like a leaf of shiso (Japanese mint).

I like the flavor idea of sushi. I’m personally quite addicted to the flavored rice, for example. But, I don’t have TIME, not interest in rolling those predictable little cylinders.

That’s what gave inspiration to these little stacks. They have all the fabulous ingredients you’d expect from a sushi, but instead of rolling them, we are going to mold them in layers and when you unmold the whole thing onto a serving plate…well, they are impressive looking, not to mention tasty.

For this recipe, you’re going to create three different mixtures to compose three different layers. Each one is super easy, but you’ll want to have them all ready to go to make assembly and serving them so much more streamlined and easy. The heat for our “spicy” layer comes from Sriracha; I give you suggested amounts, but feel free to increase or decrease as your tastebuds prefer.

First, you’ll want to get the rice cooking since it will need to cool before you build your stacks. Once it’s cooked, and you’ve allowed it to cool a bit, mix in the salt, sugar and rice vinegar. Set aside.

Next, you’ll want to make the shrimp layer. While you certainly can use raw shrimp and cook them any way you want, I went the route and bought small shrimp already cooked. You’ll be dicing them up anyway so the actual size of the shrimp isn’t that important.

Mix the mayo and the Sriracha in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and toss lightly to coat. If the shrimp seem a little too dry, add a bit more mayo and toss. Set that aside.

Finally the avocado layer. Nothing tough here either. Smash the avocado, add some lime juice, salt, pepper and finely diced cucumber. I like reserving some of the cucumber dice to add to the base of that layer to provide a little more visual texture, but feel free to mix it all in as you please!

Now, to assemble. The most challenging part of this dish — getting it molded into neat, even cylinders — is easily accomplished using plating molds. If you don’t have them, that’s ok. You can use a small can, with both top and bottoms removed, or even a straight-sided measuring cup. I happen to LOVE my professional molds, and, thankfully they aren’t expensive and they are something you’ll likely use them again and again, once you have them. There are many sets out there but, for the home cook, I would recommend this one because they are good stainless, are a good price point AND have the valuable “pusher” that will help you get your ingredients properly compressed into your mold. Believe me, that pusher is going to be your new best friend!

Alright, so we’ve overcome THAT hurdle. Now, for assembly. Ridiculously simple. You’ll want to oil the rim of your mold with a little neutral oil (grapeseed, vegetable, avocado) to make unmolding eaiser. Now, first a layer of rice; push down to compress evenly. If you’ve reserved some bits of cuke, this is the time you’ll add them before topping with a bit of the avocado-cucumber mix. Push down again. Add a spoonful of the Sriracha shrimp mixture and give it a slight tamp.

Now, for the fabulous topping. We don’t yet have the nori aspect of the sushi dish down, but we’ll use a special spice to give our stack textural and flavor interest: Furikake. It’s a traditional Japanese rice spice and it comes in a huge variety of flavors. There’s generally seaweed slivers in it, sesame seeds, sometimes bonito flakes, salmon…you have so much to choose from. For a basic Furikake, try this one, if you can’t find it in your local store. If you really want to experiment, buy a sample pack; not cheap, but I guarantee once you’ve experimented with these spices, you may find yourself adding them to all sorts of things. Think of Furikake as Japan’s version of our “everything” seasoning. So, yes you could add Furikake to bagels topped with cream cheese. Why not?

Anyway, back to our recipe. The final thing you’ll do to your stack before unmolding is to sprinkle it with a little of the Furikake.

Unmold carefully onto either individual plates or an elegant serving platter. I actually tried both while developing this recipe. For guests, I used the gorgeous “Black Appetizer Plate” from Little White Dish. I was gifted this plate by LWD last Fall, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used it. It looks like poured slate and have the MOST amazing texture. To serve a line of my Spicy Shrimp Sushi Stacks, I couldn’t have found a better option.

As an aside, if you are looking for some unique and spectacular dishes, both dinnerware and serveware, you have to check out LWD. I will be sharing some more of their pieces here in the near future.

Ok, you’ve unmolded your first stack; rinse repeat. If you like, add a little pink shredded pickled ginger as an accent, both for color and flavor. And, there you have it! Fancy enough to draw oohs and aahs from your guests, but they’ll never guess how easy it was.

You can also use this technique with other ingredients. Flaked crab can stand in for the shrimp (just don’t add too much extra to it — you want the crab flavor to stand out). You can top your stacks with a perfectly seared large scallop. Vary your flavors of Furikake. Maybe even add a quail egg to the top. It’s your app; have fun and play with it.

I hope you’ll try this recipe for your next get-together. Drop me a note and tell me how you like it! I’m always looking to share fun and inspiring dishes with you.

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Spicy Shrimp Sushi Stacks

A deconstructed version of a sushi appetizer that is easy to make and sure to impress your guests
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: california roll, cold appetizer, shrimp appetizer, shrimp sushi, spicy shrimp, sushi
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Corinne Gregory Sharpe



For the Sushi Rice

  • 1 cup uncooked short-grained rice such as Calrose, well rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Spicy Shrimp

  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp diced
  • 3 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs Sriracha

For the Avocado and Cucumber Layer

  • 1 cup ripe avocado coarsely mashed
  • 1 cup cucumber diced (peeled, if not hot-house cucumber)
  • 1 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Garnish

  • 4 tsp Furikake
  • Shredded pickled ginger


Prepare the Rice

  • Bring the rice and water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Allow to steam for 5 minutes before allowing it cool for a bit. Meanwhile, mix rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  • When rice has cooled for 10-30 minutes, gently fold the mixture of the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt into the rice. Set aside.

For the Avocado & Cucumber Layer

  • Mix ½ of the cucumber with the mashed avocado, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the Spicy Shrimp

  • Combine the mayonnaise and Sriracha in a bowl.
  • Mix diced shrimp with ½ the spiced mayonnaise mixture. If mixture seems too dry, add a little more mayo until shrimp is just coated.

To Assemble

  • Grease your ring molds or soup can/measuring cup with a small amount of vegetable or olive oil.
  • Starting with the rice, spoon 1/3rd of the height of the “guide” into the mold. Press down to form a compact layer.
  • Next, add a few reserved dice of cucumber. Add a layer of avocado/cucumber mixture and press down lightly to combine.
  • Finally add the shrimp to top the stack. Top with a ½ teaspoon of Furikake and carefully unmold onto desired serving plates.
  • Garnish with shredded pickled ginger


Notes on Special Equipment: Narrow plating rings, or, if not available, a soup can, with both ends removed, can work for molding stacks. Also, a greased 1/3 cup straight-sided measuring cup is a good substitute. Mold stacks as directed then place over serving plate, give bottom a good solid tap to unmold.


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