While living in Japan, I grew to love sushi, not only for its fresh flavors but also for the playful variety of colors and textures. When I saw Emma Galloway’s vegetarian sushi tutorial on Food52 last week, I decided to get creative and come up with my own variations. Like Emma, I love avocado + sesame seeds + mayo, so I made that one, then looked to other colors and flavors for inspiration. Beets, asparagus, cucumber, carrot, sprouts and baby lettuces also made great sushi fillings, I discovered. Then I wanted to mimic the texture of that orange roe (fish eggs) you often see atop sushi, so I made little carrot juice bubbles, thickening them with some cornstarch and piping out little spheres and letting them gel in the fridge. It was fun getting playful, creating a feast for both the palate and the eyes.
Who needs tuna when you’ve got these sweet & earthy beets?! I liked the beets best with a little cream cheese, sprouts, and black sesame seeds. I used the soft carrot bubbles to top the crunchiest of my sushi variations, a cucumber + carrot + chive mayo + baby lettuces combo; it provided some nice textural variety, not to mention that gorgeous bright orange color:
Emma’s tutorial on Food52 covers the sushi making basics, with a clear pictorial guide and directions. I found that I could simply use plastic wrap to roll mine; it was much easier for me than the bamboo mat. I prepped the filling and the carrot bubbles while the rice cooked & cooled. For some of my sushi rolls, I also added some grated carrot to the rice to give it more color & texture; this idea was inspired by some beautiful sushi I saw on Farm Fresh Feasts here.
I really loved playing with veggie sushi combinations, and these were my favorites:
Beets (I used canned baby beets, drained & chopped) + Cream Cheese + Sprouts + Black Sesame Seeds + Rice
Avocado + Chive Mayo + Baby Lettuces + Carrot/Rice + Black Sesame Seeds on Top
Cucumber + Carrot + Baby Lettuces + Sprouts + Chive Mayo + Rice + Carrot Bubbles on Top
Steamed Asparagus + Chive Mayo + Carrot/Rice + Extra Asparagus Tips on Top
I prepared a dipping bowl of soy sauce + wasabi for my sushi, but I liked them best straight, without dipping. Of course, one of my favorite things about eating sushi is the pickled ginger, so I did enjoy a few slivers of those between bites.
What about you? What sushi flavors inspire you? I challenge you to get playful with colors and textures and let your eyes and palates feast on your creations. Enjoy!
Vegetarian Sushi, Maki Style
Adapted from Emma Galloway’s lovely vegetarian sushi tutorial on Food52
- 2 cups short-grain white Asian rice (I use Nishiki)
- 2 and 1/4 cups cold water
- 5 Tbs. rice vinegar
- 1 and 1/2 Tbs. white granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 6 nori seaweed wrappers
- sushi fillings of choice (e.g. beets, avocado, asparagus, cucumber, carrot, lettuce, sprouts, sesame seeds, cream cheese, chive mayo, homemade “carrot bubbles,” etc.)
- pickled ginger for palate-cleansing between bites
- soy sauce and wasabi paste for dipping
- To cook the rice: Pour two cups of rice into a pot and add some water. Swirl and swish the rice around in the water to wash the grains, then gently tip out the water as you hold the rice in the pot with one hand. Add more fresh water and swish the grains of rice around again, then drain again. Repeat one more time and drain. Add 2 and 1/4 cups water to the pot and heat over medium heat to a boil; cover and reduce the heat as low as possible while maintaining a slow simmer. Keep the lid on and let it simmer constantly for 15 minutes. Remove from heat (do not lift the lid) and let sit for 15 minutes before you open the lid.
- To make the sushi rice seasoning, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and stir to help dissolve. Heat over low heat and bring it to a simmer while stirring and letting it thicken for a couple minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Wash, slice, and prep the filling ingredients of your choice.
- To make the carrot bubbles: Combine 1/4 cup carrot juice and 1 tsp. cornstarch in a cold pot and stir with a wooden spoon until it dissolves. Add a little salt if you’d like and stir to let that dissolve. Then heat slowly over low to medium heat and stir vigorously when it starts to bubble. Turn the heat down and continue stirring and heating for a couple minutes as it thickens. Then take off the heat and pour it into a cool bowl. Using a clean turkey baster, scoop up some of the gelling liquid and gently dot some parchment paper on a tray (see picture above, top left), trying to form them into spheres as much as possible (mine differed greatly in size; that’s okay). Let the bubbles chill in the fridge while you continue prepping and making the sushi.
- When rice is cooked and cooled, add the cooled seasoning to it and mix gently with a spatula, careful not to mash the grains of rice. Spread it onto a tray to cool. If you’d like to add grated carrot to some of the rice, separate a portion of rice and grate carrot with a microplane grater and gently mix.
- When ready to roll the sushi, place a piece of parchment paper down first to prevent any sticking or messes, then a layer of plastic wrap, then the first nori sheet. Have bowls of prepped ingredients and a bowl of cold water nearby for dipping your fingers and spatula to prevent sticking. Using a wet spatula and/or hands, lay one layer of rice on top of the nori in a rectangle, leaving a slight margin closest to you, and about a 1-inch margin on the end farthest from you. Lay the fixings of choice horizontally across the middle on top of the rice. Wet the nori sheet in the margin at the top (this will help it all stick together when you’re done rolling). Roll it up with the plastic wrap from the end closest to you, using your fingers and excess wrap on the sides to tuck the ends in as you go. It helps to keep the plastic wrap snug over the roll and squeeze gently as you go. Let the maki roll rest in the plastic wrap as you finish the other five rolls.
- Use a large, clean & sharp knife to slice each maki roll into 6 to 8 pieces, cleaning the knife between each slice. You can top the sushi pieces with extra garnishes, including asparagus tips, more sprouts, an extra sprinkling of sesame seeds, chives, or the carrot bubbles. To use the carrot bubbles, use a toothpick to gently roll/pluck the bubbles off the parchment paper and onto the sushi (picture above, bottom left).