Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vegan sushi-How to make sushi at home

Earlier today, I posted about Vegan Fried Eggplant. I mentioned that it was meant to be used in sushi. 

Here's the sushi. 

Yum. Sushi.

First- definitions.

Sushi does not = raw fish. At all.

Sashimi is raw fish. Sashimi is sometimes used to make sushi, but not always. 

Sushi is a broad term which refers to a variety of tasty little morsels, usually (but not always) including rice, Nori seaweed papers, and fish, shellfish, egg, fruit and/or vegetable toppings/fillings. Some are cooked, some are not. Soy paper or thinly sliced cucumber (or, I'm sure, many other alternatives I haven't seen yet) can be used in place of the nori. Nigiri does not require any wrapper at all. Nigiri is essentially a block of rice with a slice of fish (usually raw) or some other topping, on top. 

The rolls that we often refers to as sushi, and which I show above, are called Maki, meaning log. Maki can be filled and sometimes topped with any number of ingredients and sauces varying widely depending on where one lives. In Japan, choices are limited and deeply traditional. In the US, we can get a little crazy.

The title of this post is Vegan Sushi. I used only nonanimal-derived ingredients. Sometimes we use cooked seafood, or eggs. I NEVER use raw fish. Never. D eats sashimi. I try not to watch.

Later in the post I will make grain-free, low carb, and raw sushi. Sushi can easily be gluten free. Just check your ingredients before you begin. Soy sauce is the big offender here. 

All right. Now that we know what we're doing, let's get started.

First, we set up our assembly station. 

The rice isn't here yet because it's still cooking. We'll handle that in a minute.
Clockwise from top left, we have a serving tray, cucumber ribbons, steamed asparagus, halved, carrot ribbons,the fried eggplant from earlier, nori,a sushi mat in a zipper bag, avocados, a small cutting board and a small, sharp, serrated knife.

You can use anything you like here. Real Japanese sushi is limited to seafood, pickled vegetables, eggs, and a few soy products. But we aren't in Japan, so we can use whatever we want. Here in Louisiana, some popular choices are fried crawfish, fried shrimp, cream cheese, crab, krab, local fish, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, jalapenos, cucumber, carrots, and fried tempura breading, called "crunchies". No joke.

Let's talk rice. 
Sushi rice that you can buy in the store is NOT Japanese sushi rice. It is illegal to import or export rice to and from Japan. Rice is sacred and traditional and not to be played with. At all. It is serious business. 

Sushi rice in the US is probably from California. It's an imitation, and in my opinion, not a very good one. So pretty much, use whatever rice you want. It doesn't really matter. Technically, sushi should be made with short grain rice, but I use local medium grain rice, and it works okey doke. Minute rice or anything out of a box should NOT be used. Cook some real rice. 

Traditionally, hot sushi rice is dumped into a large, flat, wooden bowl and paddled and fanned with paper fans to cool. I don't have a wooden bowl, so I use a stainless steel one. Use what you have. 

Woo wee! Look at that steam coming off that rice. 
Sushi rice should be seasoned with palm sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar. I like to squeeze in a little wasabi paste, as well, but that is cheating. It should be added to the finished rolls. I don't mind.  Adding it to the rice lends the flavor without burning my children's lips off. 

Wasabi is a root, similar to a horseradish. If you can get fresh wasabi, grab it up. Store it in the freezer. Grate it into your rice. Lucky you.
For the rest of us, wasabi comes in powder or paste. Powder can be reconstituted into paste. I buy paste.
Check the package for the word "sauce". If it's there, put it back. It's mayonnaise that has been seasoned with wasabi. You don't want that.
If you can't find wasabi, or don't care for it. no loss. Just don't use it. 

Black soy sauce or sweet soy sauce is soy sauce which has been sweetened with palm sugar. I keep some in the house because it's dangerously delicious. Regular soy sauce and brown sugar will work, too. 

Rice wine vinegar has a light, clear, sweetish flavor. This one is diluted to 5% concentration. If you buy it from a regular grocer, it will probably be stronger. Use less. You don't want your rice to be acrid. 
If you don't have rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar is ok. 

This was 4 cups of uncooked rice. It's a really big bowl. Use about this much sauce. You can't see the vinegar, but it's in there. A little less than the other two.

Fold the rice over and over until sauces are evenly distributed and rice is cool. 

Now it's time to assemble the rolls. 

Sometimes we assemble at the table. I let the kids take turns choosing what goes into each roll. This is great fun for the kids, and wholly exhausting for me. Today, I preassembled. 

My production assistant

This is my sushi mat. It's made of little bamboo rods woven together with string. The zipper bag keeps it clean. When we're done, I wash the bag, and put it back in the drawer till next time.
The sushi mat is nice to have, but not necessary. I only use it when I'm having trouble. You can make rolls without one if you don't have one. If you do, use it. It might make it easier. 

I don't know my nori is half sheets instead of the usual square, but well, there it is.
Lay a single sheet of nori out rough side up. 

Use a rice paddle or large, flat wooden spoon to spread the rice on the nori in a thin layer. This is where the long-vs-short grain rice varies. Short grain rice is softer and stickier. 

Pro tip: Slice the avocado in half. Twist it like an oreo. It will come apart cleanly. Score the flesh all the way to the skin. 

Use a spoon to scoop out one slice at a time. 

To remove the seed, stick the tip of the knife into the seed and pop it out. 

Back to sushi making. 

Layer up some fillings in the center. 

Flip one side over the top and squeeze gently, tucking the end in on the opposite side. 

Open it up, and you should have something like this. 

Flip it around and do it again with the other side. You should now have-taa-daa!- a maki sushi!

Slice it carefully. Press the two ends towards each other and lift the whole thing. Place it on the tray. 

Repeat with lots of fillings. 




A word about fillings: 

Keep it small. Thin slices, julienne, shreds, matchsticks, ribbons. Smaller is better.

Sushi is meant to be eaten in one perfect bite. Be mindful that your rolls are not over filled. 

Looks good.

Now, lets talk about gluten free, grain-free, low carb, raw sushi. This is easier than you think. 

Nori is generally considered to be raw because it is cooked at a low temperature. If you would rather, substitute raw kale leaves in their place. Use raw fruits, veggies, nuts and butters for you filling. 

For everyone else, leave out the rice. 

No rice

The process is the same, except that the rolls won't stick quite as well. The sticky rice does that. 

We don't slice these. Pick them up and eat them whole. For these, I do prefer the smaller nori sheets. I find the extra fillings...filling. I can only eat one or two of these and I'm stuffed. 


Wasn't that easy?

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