If your new years’ resolutions include saving money on meals and cutting down on meat products, some veggie sushi might be just what you need. If you also want to teach your kids how to cook and appreciate healthy meals, then, booyah.
My 9-year-old has gained an appreciation for sushi, so I added it to this week’s semi-vegetarian menu. I decided it was time for her to try making something entirely on her own, so once I had made two rolls, she got to do some all by herself. She did great.
This recipe is particularly useful as a last-minute choice, given you’ve stockpiled some sticky rice and nori, because you can use just about anything in your veggie drawer. I planned ahead and bought cream cheese, but you could use tofu (as a vegan option, thx Jeff Hicks) or leave it out altogether.
- Sushi Rice (see recipe below)
- 3-4 sheets nori (sushi-making seaweed paper)
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin sticks, about 1/8″ square and 4″ long
- 1 roasted red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (Buy jarred or do it yourself)
- 1/4 cucumber, cut into thin strips
- 2 oz. cream cheese or extra firm tofu, cut similarly to above
- Sesame seeds, toasted or not, optional
You could spend all day freaking out about technique on this one. Or, you can do like we did and just wing it based on what you think you may or may not have seen before. Either way, it will taste pretty good, even if it’s not as pretty as what you bought at the sushi joint in town.
I’ve found that breaking the full-size nori sheets in half makes a prettier roll, at least for beginners like me. Wrap your bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap and place the half-sheet on top, near the edge closest to you.
Oh, yeah, the water. Keep a small bowl of water near your work area, or you will be, as they say in Japan, sorry.
Wet your hands and get some of your finished sushi rice, then carefully spread it in a thin layer across your nori. I say carefully because it will generally STAY where you put it. If you want your rolls to be nori-side out, leave about a half-inch uncovered across the top for a seal. (If you prefer rice-side out, this isn’t necessary. Now’s the time to flip the whole thing over on your mat. Not you, nori-side-out people.)
About halfway down, lay down a solid line of your cream cheese or tofu. On top of this, start laying down your slices of veggies. Less is more, as too much will make the roll impossible to, well, roll. I use about four pieces of each item, slightly overlapped.
And now, the rolling. Don’t freak.
Wet your fingertips and dampen the upper edge of the nori to act as a seal. Using the bamboo mat underneath, roll up your, er, roll, snugly but not with too much force. When the mat reaches all the way around, be sure to move it outward and not roll it up with your sushi! Oh, heck, just watch a video somewhere and see.
Once you’ve rolled it all the way, use the mat to give the roll a firm hug. It’s about to be your best friend! Unroll and move it to a cutting board.
With a VERY sharp, dampened knife, cut the roll exactly in half. Put the two halves against each other and do it again, so you have four equal pieces. Dampen and cut again with sets of two until you have eight equal pieces.
Serve proudly with soy sauce (use tamari if you’re gluten free) and chopsticks.
- 2 cups sticky rice (also called sushi rice)
- 2 cups cold water
- 2-3 T. rice wine vinegar (I like mine more tart)
- 1 T. rice wine (mirin), optional
- 1 T. sugar
- 1 T. kosher salt
You can find sushi rice in larger grocery stores in the Asian foods area, or at Asian specialty stores. In the Little Rock area, you can’t go wrong with Sam’s Oriental on University. Just don’t use regular rice, or you will be sorely disappointed!
Check the bag of rice to see if your variety requires rinsing, as many newer ones don’t. Unless it says not to, you’ll need to rinse it in a wire colander under cold water until the water runs clear. Place the rice and the 2 cups water in a rice cooker, or in a medium saucepan brought to a boil, then a low simmer and covered until done (check your bag for cooking times, but should be about 15 minutes).
While the rice cooks, place the vinegar, rice wine (if using), sugar and kosher salt in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. If you’re using the rice wine, cook until it simmers just a bit to cook off most of the alcohol. Otherwise, all you need is enough heat to melt the salt and sugar into the vinegar.
When the rice is fully cooked, spread it out on a sheet pan. Sprinkle the vinegar mixture over the rice, occasionally “cutting” the rice with a butter knife or spatula to mix it in without damaging the grains. Allow the rice to cool completely on the pan. (If you want go all traditional or if you’re in a hurry, you can use a folding fan to help the cooling process along, a fun task for the kids.)
Bonus Recipe for Ghetto-Fab Fried Rice: Scramble and fry an egg, remove from pan and chop it into tiny bits. (Or finely dice some tofu, season with tamari and sauté.) Cut your leftover veggie strips into tiny cubes and sauté in a tiny bit of sesame oil or broth. Add your leftover sushi rice, the egg, and some soy sauce or tamari. Stir. If you can be bothered, add some sliced green onion. Delish.