Thursday, August 20, 2009

hey, I could make vegan sushi

Yeah, I know, another food post. But the reality is, I make more food than anything else.

I never liked sushi, despite the ravings of all my friends. It was the fish that turned me off, and the fishiness of the seaweed. When I discovered that sushi can be made with other stuff-- lots of other stuff-- I decided to give it another try. It took a little while to get used to the ocean-debris flavor of the seaweed wraps, but the stickiness of the rice and the complexity of the sweet-sour-salty-spicy rolls dipped in soy sauce and wasabi got me hooked.

Going out for sushi can be an expensive habit, and gets pretty boring if you're a vegan; at many restaurants, you're limited to one or two rolls, usually cucumber and avocado or asparagus. If you can learn to make sushi at home, though, the possibilities are limitless. And it's not as hard as it seems.

I've seen it made at home with more and less intricacy, but here's what Mr. Annie and I did last night (much credit to his practiced expertise.) Generally speaking, the only specialty tools you need are a bamboo mat to roll it up with and a wooden spatula to stir the rice with. As always, improvisation saves the day if you can't find or afford these things; you could probably form the rolls with wax paper or plastic wrap, and mix the rice with a regular wooden spoon or even your hands. I dunno. It seems like it would work.

The ingredients are a bit trickier. Most importantly, buy sushi rice. Don't use plain medium- or even short-grain rice. Trust me. They even have it at the crappiest Giant here. You'll also want some rice wine vinegar-- this is good to have on hand anyway-- NOT some other kind. Really, the rice is my favorite part, so don't mess it up. Also sugar, but you probably have that.

As for the seaweed (nori), I'm really a neophyte. All I know is, make sure it's fresh or it'll get crackly and hard to roll, possibly also grosser. I'm not great friends with the sea vegetables, but some have less of a seaside aroma and flavor; the kind we used last night was dark, dark purple and smelled the least offensive of the four or five packages kicking around the kitchen. You can also use rice paper if you really can't handle the seaweed taste. I would not blame you.

Fillings! The best part. Put in whatever you want to. Purists might prefer avocado, cucumber, asparagus, weird mushrooms, pickled vegetables, daikon, etc... Try those, do. Then branch out. The most fun part of a sushi-making party is trying new combinations of flavors and textures, so turn on your brain juices and throw in whatever seems good.

I do like the traditional dip, though: soy sauce mixed with wasabi. Adjust to taste, dunk judiciously, enjoy.

Making the sushi itself is kind of time-intensive, but not really difficult once you get the hang of it. Getting the rice just right takes practice, but start with the recipe on the bag. I would generally use less sugar and vinegar than they suggest, since you can always add more if you find it bland.

Okay, so rolling. This instructable describes the whole process probably better than I can, and explains some of the more fancy-shmancy ways to make it. Steps 3 through 9 actually describe the rolling process, though, if you don't want to just wing it. Make sure your knife is sharp.

My favorite roll of last night's attempt was an "inside-out" (uramaki) roll filled with peaches, vegan cream cheese, and chiffonaded mint from the garden. We toasted and crushed Cheerios and covered the outside with the crumbs.

(avocado, asparagus, cucumber: the trinity.)

Makes good lunch the next day, too. Your office will be jealous.


Gordon said...

Lona and I went to a good chick flick the other day. It is "Julie and Julia". It is about Julie Powell who blogged about learning Julia Child's french cooking book. Good movie.

All your cooking reminded me of it.

Emi said...

i'm glad at least somebody else agrees that nori is offensively fishy. Everybody tells me i'm crazy, and insists if fish smells fishy it's bad, but i concede THAT ALL FISH SMELLS FISHY, like the ocean, and like everything else that comes from the ocean. uck. I haven't had any vegan sushi that i can eat more than 1 or 2 rolls of without starting to gag if i dont peel all the nori off and just eat the rice/fillings. i love inari though. nothing fishy bout that!

thenaturalcapital said...

yes, yes, yes, every time we make sushi we ask, why don't we do this more often?

My favorite filling is egg beaten with a little soy sauce and sugar, then cooked into a little patty (like scrambled eggs without moving them around while they cook).

BTW, I learned how to make sushi without the bamboo mat. Maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but my sushi seems to roll just fine without it.