Wait, wait! Before you pass this recipe by, let me reassure you…you can enjoy sushi, even if the idea of eating raw fish makes you want to run screaming in the other direction. While most people associate the word “Sushi” with raw fish, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “cold rice dressed with vinegar, formed into any of various shapes, and garnished especially with bits of raw seafood or vegetables.” If raw fish (or fish of any kind) is not your favorite, you can still enjoy this elegant and tasty food…and if you roll our own sushi, it will cost a fraction of what you’d pay at that trendy sushi joint everyone is talking about. It’s really not hard, and you can get creative with what you put in it. Why not have a sushi-rolling party and invite your friends to join in?
The basic ingredients for sushi rolls are rice, nori, and vinegar. Traditional sushi rice is a very short grain, sticky rice that packs and rolls easily. You can buy this in most grocery stores now, but you’ll notice that it’s pretty expensive. Try an Asian market for better prices and a wider variety…or in a pinch (my apologies to the traditionalists out there) you can also use a short-grain white rice that’s not technically sushi rice. Nori is sushi’s “wrapper,” and is actually squares of dehydrated seaweed. Seaweed is a really nutrient-rich food, full of iron, protein, fiber, calcium, and iodine. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but once you try it you’ll quickly find that you’re craving it often. Again, nori can be purchased in many grocery stores or in Asian markets, look for organic. The vinegar used in making sushi is a rice vinegar, which you can buy organic. You’ll mix the vinegar with a little organic evaporated cane juice before mixing it in with the rice.
Once you’ve got the basics, you’ll need to decide what else to put in your sushi. I’m going for a very basic veggie roll here, but you can find all sorts of ideas online (here’s 100 different kinds of sushi with photos to get you started). I’m no sushi snob, so I really just put a little of this and a little of that in my sushi rolls…avocado, cucumber and green onion is my favorite easy combination, and that’s what I’ll use here. Crab, shrimp, asparagus, and pickled radish are also fun additions. Sesame seeds are a fun way to garnish!
Prepare the sushi rice by cooking the rice according to directions, then mix with the vinegar and sugar. The rice will be sticky and thick. Set it aside and allow it to cool, while you chop your veggies…you’ll want to cut the vegetables into long sticks, so that they’ll roll easily. Once you’ve got everything ready, it’s time to roll! Line a sushi mat (a bamboo mat made for rolling sushi) with plastic wrap, or use a piece of parchment paper. Set one square of nori on the mat, and then carefully pack some rice on the nori…the rice is very sticky, so I like to keep a bowl of warm water on the counter while I’m rolling. Dip your fingers in the water and pat the rice onto the nori, stopping about 1/2 inch from the edges.
Once you’ve got your nori covered, lay the vegetable sticks on the rice about 1/3 of the way in. Now, carefully roll the sushi up…if you have a sushi mat, use the mat to push the roll along while rolling the mat up in the opposite direction (check out this video for an example). Roll tightly, gently packing down the roll as you go. It takes just a little bit of practice, but you’ll be a pro in no time. If you’ve got a variety of ingredients to choose from, it’s fun to put them all out and let everyone try a roll of their own…then you’ve got a fun sampling of different flavors to choose from and everyone gets a chance to try it out!
Once you’re comfortable making a traditional roll, try an “inside out” roll. Just flip the roll rice-side-down once you’ve covered the nori with rice, and then put the vegetables directly on the nori. Carefully roll it like you would a traditional roll, and then sprinkle sesame seeds over the top. A bit trickier than a regular roll, but really not that hard.
Once you’ve got your rolls finished, it’s time to cut them. One trick you need to know is that the rolls will cut much easier if you run the knife under hot water before you try to cut the rolls, a sharp knife that’s a little wet with hot water will cut right through the rolls and not leave you with a sticky mess. Cut the rolls into sections about an inch thick and arrange them on a platter…so fun! Sushi is a bit of an art form at its best, so find fillings with different color and texture to make your plate of sushi beautiful. Garnish with pickled ginger, wasabi, and whatever else strikes your fancy. It’s a lot of fun to walk the aisles of the Asian market, choosing fun things to add to your sushi. Serve it with soy sauce for dipping…chopsticks make the whole experience just that much more fun!
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Do you like sushi? What’s your favorite kind?