I've got two kids 5 and under so "just roll with it" is a motto that I have to live by. For instance, the fact that my son Ryan keeps changing his mind about what kind of birthday party he'd like - one day it's "Harry Potter", the next it's "Star Wars" and today it's "Ninja Boy" because that's what his older, cooler cousins are doing for their birthday. So, I have to just "roll with it" and go with whatever he seems to talk about the most! In keeping with this motto, I thought I'd post a super easy way to eat Japanese rolls of any kind. The great part about this recipe is that you can roll up pretty much anything. My kids like plain rice but if I want them to eat their veggies or try different types of fish, they'll happily roll it right up. Anything tastes better in a crispy piece of seaweed (nori)! That's what makes this recipe different, it's how you prepare the nori. Seasoned, crispy nori has become very popular these days. You can find it in little snack packs at Trader Joes and at the grocery store. I personally don't like the fact that they always come with one of those little preservative poison pack things because that means it probably has stuff in it that isn't that good for you. So, I make my own and it is much crispier, fresher tasting and better for you! Start with making regular rice - it doesn't need to be sushi rice, it can even be brown rice. There's a trick to that too. Just read on and enjoy! Basic Japanese Rice (Gohan - ごはん)
Making Japanese rice is not that difficult but it does require that you use Japanese rice to get the desired stickiness. Japanese rice is shorter grained and higher in starch content which gives it that sticky consistency. Japanese rice needs to be washed multiple times to purify the flavor and remove any impurities. It even comes in healthy brown rice varieties that I prefer more. If you can't find Japanese brown rice, regular long grain brown rice from your local grocer will also work - you just have to add more water to give it the sticky consistency that Japanese rice has.
If you don’t have a rice cooker, take the raw rice (anywhere from 2-3 cups depending on how much you want) and put it in a medium to large saucepan. Gently rinse it with water in the sink by pouring water over the rice until it is covered by about 2 inches of water. Swirl the rice and water with your hands until the water looks milky. Carefully pour out the milky water and repeat 3 times or until the water runs clear.
Once the water runs clear, cover the rice with water again but do not drain. The amount of water obviously varies with the amount of rice but here’s a trick that works with any amount. Cover the rice with enough water so that when you put your thumb to the top of the rice, the water comes up to and covers your thumb about an inch - don't put too much water or you'll have gummy rice. Let soak for about 15 minutes.
Place the lid on the pan and start cooking the rice on high heat until the water has come to a boil. Turn the heat down to just above simmer and cook for 30 minutes (brown rice may require more cooking time). Remove from heat and let steam with the lid on for an additional 15 minutes before serving. Results should be perfect, fluffy Japanese rice every time!
Makes about 40 individual hand-rolls - or cut down on amount of rice and toppings if you aren't having a party!
This is one of those, looks like you slaved all day but didn’t type dishes. It’s also really fun and gets everyone involved! It’s a crowd pleaser too because your guests can make exactly what they like. If you're making it for kids, keep the wasabi far!
5 cups sushi rice (recipe below)
10 sheets Nori, Toasted and cut into fourths
¼ cup vinegar
2-3 ripe avocados – Cut into quarters and then sliced at a diagonal in the peel so that people can take a section and scoop out what they need
½ Japanese cucumber, julienned – can substitute any cucumber
½ lb lump crab meat - to make it easy, they have this already cooked, shelled and in a nice plastic container in most seafood sections of your local grocer
½ lb baby shrimp, cooked
½ lb sushi grade tuna, albacore, yellow tail or any other fresh sushi grade fish
½ C white sesame seeds, toasted (these are available at most Asian grocers already toasted)
1/2 C mayonnaise
Soy sauce, wasabi and ginger
Prepare cooked rice, flavor it lightly by mixing in about ¼ cup of a vinegar/sugar combination or seasoned rice vinegar. If making less rice, use less vinegar mixture. Some people like to fan the sushi rice while you are mixing the vinegar in so that you get a nice sheen to the rice. If you don’t have time, don’t worry, you don’t have to season – just serve plain (I always do!).
To toast nori, put sesame oil in a small bowl. Very lightly brush sheets of nori on both sides with oil. Turn stove on medium high and gently waft the nori sheet over the hot stove with tongs to make crispy on both sides. It's o.k. if some of the sides catch a little flame, just blow it out and be careful. Lay each piece on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Repeat and stack. When done, take kitchen shears and cut the sheets into fourths.
Make a buffet with all the sushi toppings and arrange separate bowls for of all of the above ingredients with small dipping bowls on the side for the soy sauce. Provide all the condiments for dipping or adding – sesame seeds (sprinkle on), mayonnaise, soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger on the side.
Have the kids take a square of nori and spread a small amount of rice in the center and top with desired toppings. Show them how to carefully dip in soy sauce. Eat like a hand roll.
* Variation of the tuna for adults – You can make spicy tuna just like they do in the sushi restaurants. Just chop up the non-sushi grade parts of your tuna into about 1/8” cubes in a rough chop, getting rid of sinuous bits. Combine chopped tuna with 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil, 1 Tbsp Sriracha Red Rooster Red Chili Sauce, and little Sea Salt & Pepper to taste. Serve in a bowl as an additional topping option. Tuna steak size can vary so you can alter the amounts above based on size. *I buy the big tuna steaks from Costco. Trick for slicing the tuna - I freeze it and let it defrost slightly before cutting it up. It makes it easier to cut and the cubes are more uniform. You also can cut right through the sinuous bits so it's less labor intensive.