DIY Veggie Sushi

Sushi is one of those foods that seems simple enough to make, but also might have hidden complexity. If a food has chefs dedicated to its craft, it's probably a challenge to make, right? Yes and no. I'm only going to touch on vegetable sushi today, which is significantly easier than traditional fish sushi. Fish sushi requires a thorough knowledge of fish anatomy, both to pick out prime pieces of meat and to know where thin bones are hidden. The delicate business of extracting fish bones is an art onto itself. Vegetable sushi on the other hand can be made by just about anyone with the right tools and a bit of patience.

The right tools and the right ingredients make all the difference. A bamboo mat for rolling the sushi is definitely needed, but the good news is that they are under $3 at the grocery store. A super sharp knife is also needed. Sushi enthusiasts will tell you a razor sharp santoku knife is needed, but a sharp serrated knife (think bread knifes) will also do the trick. The knife should slice through sushi rolls without crushing them.  A picture is included at the bottom of this post to demonstrate the difference between using a dull blade and a sharp blade, and for a laugh.

In terms of ingredients, sushi rice is a requirement. Sushi rice is more sticky than other forms of rice and helps the rolls stay together. Nori aka seaweed sheets provide the dark green umami exterior to maki sushi. Some sushi (uramaki) has seaweed on the interior instead, but it's the same ingredient. Nori is relatively easy to find in the Asian section of most major grocery stores. Everything beyond those two ingredients is up to the chef. 

I like to add toasted sesame seeds to the rice for added texture. In terms of filling, my favorites are cucumber, avocado, carrots, and roasted sweet potato or some combination thereof. Soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger also help make the at home experience feel more like a restaurant. 

Cucumber Sushi
Makes 3 rolls

1 cup sushi rice
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 sheets nori (seaweed)
1 cucumber, cut into strips
3 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Thoroughly rinse the rice until the draining water is clear. Add the rice to 1 1/2 cups of water and soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Then bring the mixture to a boil with a lid on, reduce heat, and simmer until all the water is gone (approximately 20 minutes). Remove from heat and allow the mixture to sit for 10 additional minutes covered. Transfer the rice to a plastic or glass bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Heat over medium low until the sugar is melted. Gently toss the vinegar sugar mixture with the rice.

Lay out the bamboo sushi mat. Place one sheet of nori on the mat. Using a wooden or plastic spatula, spread 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup rice onto the nori. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if desired. Add a column of cucumber or other vegetable matchsticks approximately one inch to the right of center.

Lift up the bamboo mat on the right side. Slowly roll it towards the center, tucking in the nori as you go. Continue rolling until there rice is exposed. Squeeze the bamboo mat around the finished sushi roll. Using a sharp knife, slice the roll into bite sized segments.

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