I like sushi, but my husband Andrew reaaaally likes sushi. It’s really one of the few things he misses since becoming vegan. Most places do have a couple of veggie options like avocado and cucumber rolls, but it’s just not the same beautiful spread of colors, is it? At least not at any of the places I’ve been. I’ve tried making sushi at home a few times, and always found it to be a bit underwhelming because I stuck with the same fillings I’d seen at restaurants. Avocado and cucumber rolls are good and all, but in my world half the joy of sushi is how pretty it can all look on the plate, and the veggie options are usually just kind of boring and green.
So I decided to get serious. I armed myself with a ton of vegetables and decided to just go to town and make sushi until I figured out which ones were good. And…not only was it good, but it actually earned me a coveted spot on the “things Andrew takes photos of with his phone and shares on Facebook because they are so awesome” list!
Several of the recipes were fun but I am most excited about two discoveries: vegan Nigiri (Nigiri is the kind where there’s a hunk of “fish” on top of a ball of rice wrapped with a thin strip of nori, like on the left and right below)
And vegan California roll! CA roll was definitely my favorite type of sushi, and I know it’s pretty popular amongst a lot of people who can’t quite work themselves up to whole hunks of raw fish, so I definitely missed it once I stopped eating fish. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s usually made of a piece of imitation crab (and “imitation” does not mean it’s fake meat, it just means it’s whitefish pretending to be crab), a piece of avocado, and sometimes a bit of cucumber wrapped in a roll of rice and sushi seaweed (nori).
There’s actually two kinds of CA roll I’ve run across – the kind with a hunk of solid imitation crab or whitefish, and the kind with a sort of “crab salad” mixture of imitation crab and mayonnaise. For this experiment, I went with the mixture style because it seemed easier to figure out, but now that I’m on the homemade sushi train I’ll totally try to figure out the solid version sometime as well. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Now that I’ve given you a dissertation on California Roll (can you tell I missed it?) let’s get to the recipes! As shown in the photo below, I created five different flavors (this time…this is only the beginning, bwa-ha-ha!) and they are:
From the top: Teriyaki Tofu Nigiri on the left, Mushroom Nigiri on the right (I love how much this one looks like squid or octopus or something…without being all, you know, gross), then Teriyaki Tofu and Red Pepper Roll on the left and right, then Roasted Red Pepper Nigiri on the left, Roasted Yellow Pepper Nigiri on the right. The bottom four are all California Roll. The stuff in the little bowls is gluten-free soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi paste.
I started with a bunch of ingredients in a lovely little spread:
Almost everything was either roasted (all at once on a cookie sheet under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes) or just raw and sliced. I ended up with a lot more fillings than I could use because I didn’t make enough rice (oops), but we just had them as an awesome lunch bowl the next day so nothing went to waste. That’s roasted eggplant and butternut squash on the bottom left, and I didn’t get photos of them all assembled, but they were awesome as sushi, too!
This post is already getting ridiculously long, so let me cut to the chase and show you how to roll sushi, and then give you some recipes already! Rolling sushi is a lot easier than I expected, if you have a sushi mat (you can get them pretty cheap online, or they are like a dollar at asian markets, so it’s not a big investment to try one out).
First you need to make rice. I used my steamer and it was crazy easy – I literally just mixed rice and water in the steamer bowl and let it cook for 45 minutes, then stirred in a splash of rice vinegar for flavor. It’s probably a little more involved if you make the rice in a pot, but the sushi rice I got seemed nice and sticky without adding anything to it. Once you’ve got your rice, spread it out on a sheet of nori like so:
Make sure to leave an inch or two on one end, that will be the part that overlaps and seals it into a roll. If that doesn’t make sense…just trust me, you’ll see what happens when you do it. Then add your fillings:
And then roll it up nice and tight in the mat:
You can kind of squeeze the mat to make it nice and snug. Then just unroll it and slice it into six or so pieces (a very sharp knife will be helpful here) and you’ve made a sushi roll!
It’s really pretty quick and easy once you get the hang of it. To make the “inside out” sushi (with the rice on the outside, like my California rolls) you just put a piece of plastic wrap over the sushi mat and then spread the rice out first, and then put the nori and fillings on top. You can kind of see what I mean here:
To make the nigiri style sushi, you just cut a thin strip of nori, put a tablespoon or so of rice in the middle, top with your veggie of choice, and then seal it (nori sticks to itself if you get it a bit wet)
So that was my fun sushi experiment. Obviously it’s a bit different than the usual fish-filled sushi spread, but it was honestly quite a similar experience to our sushi restaurant visits of yore. I’ll give you the recipes for the five rolls I discussed below – anyone have any other suggestions for awesome fillings I could try next time? What’s your favorite type of sushi?
Roasted Mushroom or Roasted Red Pepper Nigiri:
These are so easy I won’t even bother with a formal recipe – roast your mushroom or red pepper under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until nice and browned, then either slice into thin strips or one-inch squares, depending on the look you want. Place a thin strip of nori on a cutting board, add a tablespoon of prepared sushi rice to the middle, and top with your roasted vegetable of choice. Wrap nori around the outside and seal with a bit of water. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.