Garden sushi rolls
For some reason I was craving sushi the other day and we went to a local Japanese restaurant to have some. I was discussing the vegetarian options with the server and she suggested a vegetarian bento box that would contain “a nice balance of different items”. Well, perhaps it did but I didn’t get my fill of sushi, with all the tempura, so called salad, more rice and whatnot included in the box.
I have seen a documentary about the art of sushi making in Japan, with sushi artists-craftsmen devoting a life time to perfecting the art. I don’t think Japanese make sushi at home, they go out for it, correct me if I am wrong.
After seeing that film, making sushi at home seemed almost sacrilegious considering the skill it takes to achieve that level of precision. However, I did try my hand at it, but more like the California style sushi we are familiar with here. Out of respect for the ancient craft of sushi making, I was tempted to call these “nori-wrapped vegetable rolls” instead of sushi rolls, but whatever. You get my point.
When I was in Montreal a while back I had lunch at Crudessence, a restaurant that is part of a group of vegan restaurants serving plant based and raw foods. We ordered their non-traditional “living sushi” and I loved the presentation that looked like a garden on a plate. I wrote about the experience here. That dish stuck in my mind and surfaced today as I was making the second batch of rolls.
The best way to learn how to make sushi other than taking a class is to watch a video so you can see the technique of rolling it. Here is one video you can view: Kikkoman Sushi with Kiosi Hayamizu. or Tom Lin video here or the BBC How to make sushi video here. There are many tutorial videos available online. I will explain the process below.
I have made sushi rolls a couple of times now, once with pickled carrots (image below) and one with the ingredients listed below. Play with your food and experiment with the filling.
Yields about 4-5 rolls, each yielding about 6 pieces depending on the size.
Equipment and base ingredients:
- a bamboo sushi rolling mat
- 5 nori sheets
- 1.5 cups sushi rice
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup Mirin (sweetened sake) for the rice (or 1/4 cup rice vinegar and 2 teaspoons sugar)
- 2 carrots or pickles carrots
- 1 cucumber, optional
- a few long fresh chive
- a handful of pea shoots
- soy sauce
- pickled ginger
- Japanese mayo sauce:
- 1 cup Japanese mayonnaise to make the spicy mayo sauce (recipe below
- 1/4 cup Mirin
- 2-3 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce
Cook 1.5 cups rice according to package directions or use 1.5 cups rice and 2 cups water. Rinse the rice and drain well, bring the rice and water to a boil, lower heat and cook covered until the water is absorbed and the rice cooked through. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes to cool.
Remove lid and turn rice into a bowl. Drizzle with 1/4 cup mirin or rice vinegar and gently stir without breaking the grains of rice, to distribute the seasoning. Let rest covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap until completely cooled.
Cut the carrots into thin sticks by hand or with a vegetable peeler that has a serrated edge.
Cut the cucumbers into thin sticks discarding the seedy center (if using cucumbers).
When ready to assemble lay the bamboo mat on the work surface and lay the nori sheet on top, shiny side down. Experienced sushi makers would work with half a sheet of nori per roll. I was more comfortable working with 2/3 sheet per roll so I cut off a third of the sheet with kitchen scissors.
Gather a ball of rice that fills the palm of your hand (about 5 oz or generous 1/2 cup) and gently spread it on the nori sheet from the edge closet to you toward the center. You will cover two thirds of of the sheet, see image above. If the rice doesn’t reach the outer edges then patch them up with rice from the center or more rice. You want the rice to reach all the way to the side edges of the roll.
Once you have a nice thin rectangle of rice lay a few carrots and/or cucumbers in a row along the center.
Top the vegetables with a couple of long chives allowing the chives to protrude from both edges.
Lay two small bundles of pea shoots at each end, also extending out of the edges.
Optional: you can lay a row of pickled ginger on top of the vegetables or serve it on the side.
Begin rolling the mat and the sushi roll away from you bringing the filling together with the tips of your fingers to make a rather tight roll without pressing it down too much. Roll the sushi until the filling is completely enclosed in the nori sheet.
Wet the edges of the nori sheet slightly and press them together to seal the roll.
If you make it with the bouquet edges then cut the end pieces first, trying to make them the same size.
Line up the rolls and cut them in 4 with a sharp knife brushed with rice vinegar (to prevent sticking). You can also cut some on the diagonal.
Arrange the sushi rolls on a serving platter and serve with individual dipping bowls of soy sauce, wasabi, spicy Japanese mayo sauce and pickled ginger.
Spicy Japanese mayo sauce:
1 cup japanese style mayo
3 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce or to taste
2 tablespoon mirin
Combine the mayo with the sriracha and mirin, taste and adjust the seasoning.