Vegan Sushi

Posted on February 24, 2011

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My month-long experiment with Veganism continues.  Last night’s dinner was a great example of how fun and delicious vegan food can be.  Sushi is a tricky dish.  It takes a long time to master and a lifetime to perfect.  I haven’t managed to do either of those things.  Still, I do know how to make something that turns out both tasty and cool looking.  That’s something.

I always start with the rice.  You need real sushi rice.  It’s a short, fat, round white rice, and dry looks a bit like arborio (which is for risotto).  You can probably find it at your local Co-op, in the ethnic aisle at the grocery store, or if you’re lucky enough to live near one, an Asian market.

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You’ll need:

1 cup sushi rice

1 cup water + rinse water

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 Tbsp salt

Put the rice in a bowl and rinse it until the water runs clear.  It will be white and milky at first.  Combine the rice with 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to the lowest setting and cook for about 15 minutes, covered.  Then remove from the heat, still covered, and let rest for 10 more minutes.  Combine sugar, salt and rice vinegar in a heat safe dish and microwave in 15 second increments, stirring between, until fully incorporated.  When rice is done resting combine with vinegar mixture in a glass or ceramic mixing bowl and stir until all the rice is thoroughly coated.  Set aside to cool.  (Tip: I like to pop the entire bowl in the fridge and stir once every fifteen minutes or so.  The rice only needs to cool to room temperature and refrigeration really speeds up the process.  It’s probably not traditional, but I don’t really notice a difference.)

While the rice is cooking you can make your dipping sauce.  This gives it time to rest and let’s the flavors mellow and combine.  You could even do this the day before if you have time.

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You’ll need:

1/3 cup sake

1/3 cup soy sauce (I like shoyu best.)

2 Tbsp neutral tasting oil (I like Sunflower.)

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (Optional)

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp grated garlic

1 tsp grated ginger

1 green onion

Combine all the liquids and sugar in a bowl.  Chop green onion into small pieces (garnish sized) and add to the liquid.  Grate, finely chop or press the garlic and ginger.  I highly suggest using a micro-plane grater.  They completely rock.  Add garlic and ginger to other ingredients and whisk for two minutes.  Refrigerate until needed.  (This recipe will make more than enough sauce for two servings of sushi.  You can save it and make spring rolls or won-tons the next day, or just double the rice recipe and the filling and make four servings instead of two.  Because there is no raw fish involved this sushi is great for leftovers!)

Once your rice has cooled to room temperature (30-40 minutes in the fridge, several hours covered on the counter) you can begin to work on making your actual sushi rolls.

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You’ll need:

2 sheets of nori or sushi party wrappers

1 small avocado

1 small cucumber

1 medium carrot, peeled into long strips (Optional)

2 tsp fresh or reconstituted wasabi paste

1 green onion, cut into strips

I’m not a big fan of nori’s flavor, so I tend to use soy based party wrappers to make my sushi.  (I like the yellow ones as they are colored with turmeric rather than artificial colorings.)  Nori is definitely the more traditional option though, so if you like the taste, go for it!  Get the rice out and set it on the counter so it can rest while you prepare the fillings.  Peel cucumber and remove the seeds.  Cut into long thin strips 1/2 to 1/4 inch wide.  Do the same for the avocado. (If you are using carrot peel into long strips with a vegetable peeler.)  Set aside.  Wipe down your counter or cutting board and get out your sushi mat.  Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not the neatest sushi roller in the world, so I need to put a piece of plastic wrap over my mat to keep it from getting all rice-y.  If you decide to go this route I highly suggest the following: Tear off a piece of plastic wrap just a little more than twice the length of your mat.  Lay it across your cutting board with the long extra hanging loose.  Place sushi mat on the plastic wrap about a 1/2 inch from the end.  Lift up the loose end of the plastic wrap and fold it over the mat.  Stick it to itself all the way around and fold the edges under.  Voila!  You will now have a rice free mat when you finish rolling your sushi.

Next lay a wrapper or sheet of nori on your mat.  (You want the longest edge to be parallel to the edge of the board or counter.)  Now using a fancy flat wooden spoon/spatula or your freshly washed hands spread a thin layer of rice over the wrapper, leaving about 1/2 inch clear on the side farthest from you.  Lay a thin row of fillings across the rice about 1 1/2 inches from the edge closest to you.  (The rice WILL stick to everything.  Rinse your fingers before moving on to the next step.)  Lift up the end of the mat and carefully fold the wrapper over the fillings, pressing gently but tightly as you go.  Finish the entire roll in this way.  You can wet the far clear edge of the wrap slightly with your fingers if you have trouble getting it to stay closed.  Repeat until you run out of rice or wrappers.  You should have something that looks a little like this:

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Note: I made a double batch which is why I came out with four rolls. Yours may be much neater or mush messier than mine. Unless you're serving this to a sushi chef I wouldn't worry about it too much.

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Now comes the slicing.  Lay the finished roll on your clean cutting board and get out the biggest sharpest knife you have.  Slice the roll in half using long slow strokes.  Don’t saw at it!  Slice each half in half and then do the same for each quarter.  (Tip: Wash sticky rice bits off of the knife after every two slices.  It won’t tear as much this way.)  You should get 8 pieces from each roll.  Serve finished sushi with individual portions of dipping sauce, wasabi and sliced green onion.  Enjoy!

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Yes, ideally the finished pieces should be round, but I tend to flatten mine a bit during the cutting process. Trust me, they were still delicious.



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Posted in: Cooking, Recipes