There are two things I’ve never even attempted to make at home: pasta and sushi.
My theory is that someone else has mastered the arts of making these so why should I try to re-invent the wheel and possibly make a mess of it, thus wasting good ingredients and ending up with a mediocre result?
My friend Scott texted me this picture last weekend with the caption, “Enjoying your blog, felt inspired!
I was impressed, slightly jealous and tempted to compete. But I’m sticking with store-bought fresh pasta for now.
The gift that didn’t get used
As for making sushi – I have been gifted sushi-making sets more than once. It’s a smart gift – my friends know I love sushi and that I love to make my own food so it seems obvious that I should try making my own sushi.
Alas my lovely boxed sushi sets have gone unused.
The Seed Gets Planted
A few weeks ago I got this vegan sushi roll at my farmer’s market. I talked about it in my post that week (Something Worth Waking Up For). A local vendor that makes tempeh had created a tempeh-kimchi sushi roll and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
The problem was it turned out to be a one-time treat. After getting me fully addicted in a single bite, the vendor tells me it isn’t going to be a regular thing.
Anything boys can do….girls can do better!
The following weekend I was spending a lazy afternoon catching up on the YouTube food channels I subscribe to. One of my favorites is Yeung Man Cooking where a guy named Will Yeung makes plant-based Asian dishes and makes it look super easy. I love his style – he doesn’t fill in his recipe demonstrations with unnecessary commentary. It is the ultimate in minimalist video recipe blogging – check it out.
I watched an episode about vegan sushi that covered both how to make proper sushi rice (without a rice maker!) and how to roll. The universe was clearly trying to tell me something. I decided it looked do-able.
I got to thinking about vegetarian/vegan sushi rolls – the kimchi was such a unique but obvious ingredient for a roll. The tempeh was a great idea too – provided a good protein punch to make it a hearty lunch.
And then my mind went wild with ideas….marinated chickpeas, fresh herbs, fresh greens, hot peppers….the combinations were endless.
I’ve yet to see a sushi restaurant that really got serious about the vegetarian/vegan customer. You occasionally find a unique fish-free roll but you will most likely be stuck with a cucumber roll or the dreaded cream-cheese roll (I’m fundamentally opposed to cheese in sushi).
I got out my sushi mat. I pulled out every partially used-up piece of produce from my fridge, plus every possibly condiment from romesco sauce to olive hummus. I spread it all out and starting grouping things into piles that might work together.
Here’s what happened next:
First thing I learned is that 1 cup of sushi rice doesn’t go very far. It was going to be enough for about 2 rolls total.
I had some leftover cooked tri-color quinoa so I mixed that in with the cooked rice to make it go further. Not only is it healthier, it’s gorgeous!!
And so it begins… this post will officially be the beginning of my Vegetarian Sushi “On A Roll” series. I made 3 different rolls today and have 3 more planned for tomorrow.
I’m not gonna lie, they were all delicious.
Meet Winner #1 – Tofu Garden Roll: Tofu, red bell pepper, radish, shredded carrot and broccoli sprouts with rice vinegar & sesame oil.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of something I made myself.
I have nothing against putting real fish in sushi, I just don’t have access to sushi-grade product. As it turns out, the word “sushi” really refers to meals created around the rice so stay tuned for more fish-free sushi rolls coming soon!
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- sushi mat wrapped in plastic wrap plus extra plastic wrap for cutting
Sushi Quinoa Rice
- 3/4 cup sushi rice, rinsed several times
- 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
Tofu Garden Filling
- 2 sheets nori
- 1/2 slice extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/4 slices
- 1/4 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 radish, thinly sliced and then cut into matchsticks
- 2 inch carrot, shredded or cut into matchsticks
- 1/2 cup broccoli or alfalfa sprouts-yes, 1/2 cup!
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- soy sauce for dipping
- wasabi paste, optional
Prepare the Sushi Quinoa Rice
- Place the rinsed sushi and quinoa in a small saucepan. Add 1 cup water and place over med-high heat. As soon as bubbles start to form on the edges, stir to release anything sticking and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn off heat (don't open the lid). Allow to steam for another 15 minutes. Remove lid, fluff with fork. Add rice vinegar, sugar, salt and sesame seeds and fluff again. Set aside.
Preparing the Roll
- While rice is cooking, prep all your veggies.
- Once rice is done, place one nori sheet (bumpy side up) on a sushi rolling mat that has been wrapped in plastic wrap. Using a fork or wet fingers, press cooked sushi quinoa rice onto the mat firmly leaving 1 inch of nori uncovered. Carefully pick up the nori and flip over.
- Starting with the tofu, carefully arrange your filling ingredients on the section of nori where the rice begins on the other side but closest to the nori edge that you left without rice. You are going to roll that uncovered nori around the filling to get it started. Layer the bell pepper, radish, carrots and sprouts. Drizzle 1 tsp of the rice vinegar onto the sprouts. Drizzle 1 tsp sesame oil evenly over to finish. **You are going to make 2 rolls so use about half your filling ingredients on each.
- Pick up the edge of your rolling mat and start to flip the exposed piece of nori over the filling ingredients. You essentially want to tuck that piece around and under to get your roll sealed. Use the mat to pull it back towards you, and use your fingers to pinch the roll firmly as you go. You want to get things tight on that first turn and then continue rolling about a half turn at a time, pulling the mat free as you continue to roll forward and continuing to pinch along the length of the roll as you go. Unroll the mat and you should have a beautiful sushi roll!
- The hardest part IMO is cutting. Move the roll to a cutting board. I use a separate piece of plastic wrap which I lay over the top, pull snug and tuck in slightly all around (some people fully wrap the roll before cutting but I found that left me with shreds of plastic wrap to pick off). Using a serrated knife, gently cut your sushi into pieces and then carefully remove the plastic wrap. Stand back to admire what you've created, then go ahead and make your second roll. Serve immediately or keep wrapped in plastic and refrigerated until ready to serve.
- Serve 1 roll per person with soy sauce for dipping and wasabi paste on the side (optional).