One of the most appealing things to me about sushi is just how neatly organized and beautiful it is. Fillings are bound in a nori and rice bundle, with all of their colors displayed. Little bundles of freshness they are. While I enjoy sushi with raw fish, it is often difficult to find high-quality sushi-grade fish that comes from sustainable sources. Vegetarian rolls are often a go-to for me when I am out with friends and not quite sure about the quality or sourcing of the fish, which is pretty often. Fillings can get extremely creative, and I love discovering new combinations that pair well with sushi rice and nori.
Peanut and avocado is a favorite combination of mine. When I first ordered it, others at the table were skeptical of my vegetarian roll, but there was something about the salty peanuts and creamy avocado that made them change their mind. You can really fill these rolls with whatever you like as the method will be pretty much the same for all sorts of rolls you would like to create. I purchased a sushi mat a long time ago, and it is a fun tool to have on hand if you want to make your own rolls regularly or host a sushi making party. I use brown rice here that I season with rice vinegar. Of course, you do not have to season the rice, but it really does make it taste more authentic.
The rolling technique can be a little tricky at first, but there are a few key tips that will make rolling a little easier. You can also watch a video such as this one to get the idea.
- Line your mat with plastic wrap to make clean-up easier.
- Do not be tempted to over-stuff the roll. You will end up with a nori burrito that is not as sturdy and frankly does not look as cute.
- Tightly squeeze the roll, firmly but gently, after each rotation to get the tightest, most secure roll.
- Leave about 2 inches of one end of the nori free of rice so that you can wrap the roll securely.
- When you cut the roll, use your sharpest knife and dip it in a cup of water between cuts.
The basic roll recipe is adapted from Kristy's Avocado, Mango, and Kimchi Sushi Rolls at Keepin' it Kind. I used honey instead of mirin to ever so lightly sweeten the rice because I always have it on hand.
Vegetable Nori Rolls
2 sheets nori, toasted*
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice, warm or at room temperature (I used a rice cooker)
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey (agave, if vegan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari, for serving
Pickled ginger, for serving (optional)
Avocado and Peanut Filling:
1/4 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped roasted and salted peanuts
Cucumber, Carrot, Avocado and Tempeh Filling:
1/8th of a block of tempeh, sliced into 1/4-inch slices and browned in 2 teaspoons coconut oil over medium heat until golden
1/4 English cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1/4 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/16-inch matchsticks
1/4 avocado, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
Make the sushi rice. Mix the vinegar, honey, and salt together until combined. Stir mixture into warm to room-temperature cooked short-grain brown rice.
Assemble the sushi. Place plastic wrap on the bamboo mat to cover. Place a piece of toasted nori, shiny side down, atop the plastic wrap. Cover the nori with 1 cup of seasoned sushi rice, leaving the last 1 1/2 to 2 inches of nori furthest from you free of rice. Dip your fingers in water if the rice starts to stick to them. Line the fillings of choice alongside the closest end to you.
Roll the sushi. Beginning with the edge closest to you, lift the mat up and over the filling. Squeeze mat gently along the length of the roll to secure the filling, then peel back the plastic wrap and mat once you feel the roll is secure. Roll again, squeeze firmly but gently, and peel back the mat and plastic wrap as necessary until you reach the end of the roll. Give the roll a final squeeze to make sure it is sealed. Remove the bamboo mat and plastic wrap.
Cut the roll. Dip a very sharp knife (not serrated) into water, and slice the roll crosswise into 8 or 9 pieces.
Repeat with the other nori sheet and fillings of choice. Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce, if using. Makes 2 rolls.
*To toast nori, wave the nori about 4-5 inches over a gas flame for about 30 seconds or until the green becomes brighter.