One of the things people miss the most when they go vegan is sushi. Both Simona and I used to love eating fish, and even if most of the restaurants now have vegetarian and vegan options, it is still quite difficult to find a good selection of vegan sushi. In reality, sushi is not so difficult to make at home, but it requires some degree of patience and time.
Unlike most of the vegan sushi you will find out there on the web, we don’t like sushi to be crunchy. Just like fish sushi, you should bite into it and feel it melting in your mouth, without struggling with the texture of the vegetables. That’s why we prefer to work a bit more and steam or grill the vegetables that we use as a filling for our maki rolls and the topping for our Nigiri.
If you don’t know a lot about sushi, here’s a little guide.
Maki rolls are ingredients wrapped in nori seaweed and seasoned rice. Typically, you would need a rolling mat to apply pressure on the rice and wrap it all together. As a practical trick for this step, we suggest you wrap your bamboo rolling mat in a plastic sheet, so you won’t struggle to take off the rice from the mat when you have to clean it. Rolling mats are very cheap (go to a Chinese store instead of buying it online: they are about 2 dollars). However, if you don’t have one, you can use a small face towel and it will do the job as well. To spread the rice, large and flat plastic spoons will make your work very quick. Again, if you don’t have one, you can just do it with your hands, wetted before you touch the rice so it won’t stick.
Nigiri is slices of raw ingredients placed on top of a small piece of rice seasoned in rice vinegar. You can easily make them with the help of an ice cube tray and a plastic sheet. As a topping, you can use whatever you want, as long as you cut it into thin strips. Avocado, carrots, asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini… you name it. Tip to look like a pro: if you shave a carrot with a potato peeler into long slices, when they are steamed they look exactly like salmon in color and texture. Generally, steamed or grilled vegetables are better than raw vegetables because they will bend and adapt to the shape of the ice tray without breaking.
These are the ingredients that I have used for this batch of sushi, but you can vary the vegetables at your taste:
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1 carrot
- 3 green onions
- Soy sauce
- 3 cups of sushi rice
- Garlic salt
- Spray olive oil
- 4 sheets nori
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- Sweet-chilli sauce
Wash and clean the pepper, zucchini, and carrot. Chop off the ends of the carrot and zucchini. With a potato peeler, remove the skin of the carrot and then continue to shave it in long strips, about half of it. Cut the rest of the carrot into irregular sticks, not too long. Slice the zucchini with the knife as thin as you can. Slice the pepper into long strips as well. Spray a grilling pan with olive oil, heat to high, and grill the zucchini and peppers until soft. To prevent them from burning or becoming too dry, spray them with oil when you turn them. Sprinkle with garlic salt and set aside to cool. Steam the carrots (both the shavings and the sticks) for 10 minutes or until soft. Set aside to cool and sprinkle with a few drops of soy sauce to season.
Cook the rice in water with a few drops of soy sauce. In a small rice cooker, it will take about 15 minutes. When ready, split the rice into two different bowls to cool down. In one of the bowls, add a spoon of rice vinegar and mix the rice. Once the rice has cooled down, you can start to prepare your sushi.
How to prepare Nigiri
Cover the ice tray with a plastic sheet, being careful when poking the film inside each hole. Leave space for some extra movement, as the sheet will adjust as you fill the holes. Push the vegetable slices to the bottom of the hole, making sure that they cover the surface. If they are too long, cut them in a half and fit the two halves in the hole. When you are finished, fill the remaining space in each hole with the rice that you seasoned with rice vinegar. Help yourself with a teaspoon and cake well the rice in each hole. When you have filled all of them, put to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
To take your Nigiri out of the ice tray, flip the tray on a flat surface (like a chopping board) and tap gently on its bottom. Then, lift one side of the tray and pull the plastic sheet down. The Nigiri will pop out of the tray. Gently remove the plastic film that covers them and place on the serving plate.
How to prepare Maki rolls
There are different techniques to prepare Maki rolls. Choose the method that works best for you. Place the nori sheet on your sushi mat (I have covered mine with plastic film). Spread the rice on the nori, covering its entire surface. If you’re doing this with your hands, wet them often to prevent the rice from sticking to your fingers. When you have an even rice layer, place the ingredients for the filling at one end of the nori sheet and start to roll it onto itself. Press well with the mat each time you roll it, so the rice will stick together.
When you have your roll, cut it in a half with a sharp knife (wet the blade to help it cut through the rice). Continue to half the rolls until they are your favorite size. Finally, place them in a serving tray. Leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
What sauces to serve?
You cannot serve your sushi without some kind of sauce to dip them in. My favorite dipping for sushi is sweet-chilli sauce, sweet soy sauce, and buddha sauce (you can see them in this picture, left to right).
I bought vegan sweet-and-sour sauce and buddha sauce at a veg store, but I couldn’t find sweet soy sauce, so I made my own (it only took 2 minutes).
To make sweet soy sauce, I used 1 tablespoon of tamari soy sauce, added 1 tablespoon of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Finally, I added some freshly chopped green onions. It is truly delicious, tangy, sweet and fresh!
Depending on how hungry you are, this quantity of rice and vegetables should make a meal for four people (or two meals for two people). At the end of all this work, our table was quite amazing…
Vegan sushi is a guaranteed success if you have guests and you want to offer something that looks elegant and sophisticated, but is also finger food and sets the pace for a relaxed evening. Or, it is the perfect setting for a romantic evening. Either way, vegan sushi is truly delicious and all the hard work is well worth the effort!