Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekend o' sushi, part 1

It's time. I didn't want to start my VeganMoFo 2009 month of Japanese food with sushi, first because first I was more than a little intimidated by the prospect, and didn't want to fail right off, and second because I've eaten sushi many times at restaurants and at my parents'—my dad is a superb amateur sushi chef and a few times a year he puts on a mighty spread for the whole family— and the idea of this month's challenge is to learn and try new things.

My guide on this weekend journey is The Complete Book of Sushi, by Hideo Dekura, Brigid Treolar, and Ryuichi Yoshii. If you're interested in learning to make sushi, this is a great book to buy. It is gorgeous, it's geared at both the beginner and the expert, the instructions are very clear, it's illustrated with pictures showing the different steps and how everything should look when it's done, and it contains recipes not only for the different kinds of sushi but also for soups, pickles, garnishes, it explains ingredients, it gives lessons on etiquette at home and in restaurants, it has everything you need for a complete sushi experience. Well, except sushi. You have to make that for yourself.

I did end up learning a lot of new things. My previous sushi-making experience (as opposed to sushi-eating experiences) consisted of trying to make California rolls with all the wrong kinds of ingredients—wrong type of rice, wrong type of nori that was too thin and fell apart, etc. This time I was prepared. I read the book. I made a grocery list. I bought most of the right stuff, decided what I was going to try, and did that. My goal was to make several different kinds, basically starting with two cups of raw rice and working through until it was all used up; tomorrow I plan to make even more kinds with the leftover toppings and some additional ingredients that didn't make it into today's menu.

Just to get this out of the way, sushi is vinegar-flavoured rice topped or rolled with various other food items. Sashimi means "raw" in Japanese and in this context usually means raw fish or other seafood used as a topping or filling for sushi. So to talk about vegetarian or vegan sushi is perfectly correct.

Here are some of the fillings I used. Shown here are seasoned carrots, seasoned kampyo (dried gourd strips), seasoned shiitake mushrooms ("seasoned" here essentially means reconstituted if necessary and then briefly cooked in a mixture of sugar, dashi, and soy sauce) some firm tofu fried with soy sauce, the raw red pepper and cucumber strips, and the little ginger vinaigrette that goes with the carrot/eggplant nigiri-zushi.

First up, nigiri-zushi, or topped rice sushi. This was trippy. You take thin strips of Chinese eggplant and long carrot peels, and fry them until they're soft and tender. You fry a little extra of each cut into long thin ribbons, then roll half the squeezed rice balls into the eggplant strips, and use carrot ribbons to wrap them, and roll the other half into the carrot strips, and use eggplant ribbons for wrapping. I loved the way the carrot especially looked, but they were both delicious:

Next, sushi rolls, here with seasoned carrots, cucumbers, tofu fried in soy sauce, sweet red pepper, and green onions. I also made a few hosomaki-zushi, or thin sushi rolls, kappa maki (cucumber only) and plain sweet red pepper:

That went well, so I tried something harder, uramaki-zushi, or inside-out sushi rolls. I was sure I'd screw this up, but actually I didn't! They turned out quite lovely:

So I got excited and tried it again, with different insides, and white sesame seeds instead of dark ones:

There was no way I could eat all this myself, nor did I want to, so I invited my mom and dad over, and while I was waiting for them to arrive, I played around a little, got out a few sauces from the recent past to use as dipping sauces alongside the ginger vinaigrette, and, oh, look! Everybody got a wasabi leaf and a ginger rose:

And then we ate it all up, with a simple miso soup seasoned only with bits of green onion and a few enoki mushrooms, agari (green tea), and a little pickled carrot and daikon dressed with rice vinegar, a bit of soy sauce, ginger and sugar, shown here on my plate:

This was, admittedly, time consuming, but so much fun, from the reading to the shopping to the making to the meal itself, the whole day. I can hardly wait to do it again tomorrow (for my sister this time)!


  1. Everything sounds delicious and looks absolutely gorgeous!

  2. That looks super super AWESOME!
    I've not made sushi yet, I've not even eaten sushi yet!
    You are an inspiration.

  3. So many beautiful sushi rolls - they just look stunning!

  4. That sushi looks great! I'm really intimidated by making my own sushi, mainly because the last time I tried I failed miserably! Getting a copy of that book you mentioned may be a great way to pull myself out of my comfort zone of having to go out anytime I want some sushi.

  5. What can I say...I'm blown away by how lovely this all looks (and I'm sure tastes). You should open a restaurant or something. ;)