Method: Gluten Free Sushi Rolls
Sushi has got to be one of my favorite things to stick in my face, and one of the riskiest in my area due to a pretty major language barrier. When we’ve gone out for sushi, it seems like the sushi chefs always like to substitute something when you ask to leave something else out (and it almost always has got gluten!). So, I only have sushi at home now… and man, it’s a money saver!!!!!!!
I read this sushi book by Kimiko Barber and Hiroki Takemura and it influenced me a great deal. I also learned a lot from watching people at sushi bars make sushi… so my methods aren’t really what you would call “authentic” but they are certainly tasty!
Sushi rice is the first thing you have to do, always. Here’s my sushi rice recipe, it will make about 6 rolls:
Ingredients (Part 1):
1 1/2 cups sushi rice (this is a short grain sticky rice, so make sure you get the real deal)
2 cups hot water
salt, to taste
4 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sweet rice cooking wine
1/4 cup unflavored rice vinegar
Directions (Part 1):
1) In your rice cooker, add rice and hot water and some salt. Let it cook your rice while you do the next step. If you don’t have a rice cooker, well, you’re on your own. We eat so much rice here that we have a rice cooker to simplify things… if you’re Celiac, it would be a good idea to invest in a decent one. Mine has fuzzy logic, so even if I do something stupid, the rice generally comes out good.
2) In a small saucepan, combine last four ingredients. Cook over medium heat until the liquid turns clear. DON’T LET IT BOIL! Remove from heat and let cool while you wait for your rice.
3) Here’s where we depart largely from tradition. Find a large metal bowl and dump your rice in it (once it’s cooked). Be careful, that bowl is getting ready to get HOT! Using a rice paddle, mix in the vinegar mix that you made and cooled on the stove (remember it?). Allow the mixture to sit on the counter for a half hour or so, then give it another good stir.
You should notice that the rice is sucking up the excess liquid. Let the rice cool a total of about 90 minutes, stirring every 15-30 minutes until the liquid is incorporated and rice is cool enough to handle. The metal bowl will speed cooling, making the traditional fanning unnecessary, in my opinion. This is the lazy way, it cools whether or not I’m even in the house.
Ingredients (Part 2):
Sushi Rice from Part 1
Gari (pink pickled ginger)
Wasabi (optional, but delicious)
Assorted veggies, cheese and meat
Directions: (Part 2):
Ok , this is where we start to get technical. It’s sort of hard to explain how to do this, but once you’ve done it a few times, it will make more sense.
1) While your sushi rice is cooling is a great time to lob up whatever veggies, cheese or meat you intend to use in your rolls. My top three favorites are avacado, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Other great sushi fodder includes celery, green onion, dill pickles, carrots, radish, daikon, fried tofu… really anything you can chop into long skinny pieces. You can do this same day or the day before… just be sure to practice safe food storage. I don’t recommend raw fish, though we’ve done it before. I’ve had sushi with fried chicken, which was delicious (but I’ve not done at home).
2) Next, set up your sushi stations. You will need a rolling area where all your ingredients are within easy reach (veggies, cheese, meat, rice and any condiments you want to put in the roll, like sriracha or wasabi mayo and your nori). It should also have your bamboo mat and a bowl of warm water with vinegar big enough to put your hand in. Your other area should have a cutting surface (large cutting board is good), a long, thin, sharp knife, pickled ginger, wasabi and your plates.
3) In your rolling area, lay out your bamboo mat, shiny side up (you absolutely need this device, it’s like ten bucks at an Asian grocery). Place an uncut sheet of nori shiny side down on the bamboo mat. Dip your hands in the vinegar water and grab and large handful of rice. Spread it thinly over about 1/3 of the nori sheet, leaving a half inch or so on one side (see photo).
4) Add your fillings and any condiments you want inside the roll. I usually try to limit myself to 3 fillings, it makes rolling easier.
5) Now here’s where it gets tricky. Wet both ends of the exposed nori sheet. With the fillings on the side closest to you, fold the bamboo mat and ingredients over on themselves, pulling the mat toward you as you do. If a little squishes out the short sides of the roll, it’s ok; you shouldn’t have any squish out the long sides, though. When you’ve pulled the roll as tight as you think it will go (only practice will help you judge that), use the mat to maintain pressure and finish rolling the roll. Press the wet strip of the nori against the roll to seal.
6) Move your roll to the finishing area and place it sean-side down on the cutting board. Start by cutting your roll in half, then cut each half into half and so on, until you have made bite size pieces (I usually go for about 3/4 inch slices). The ends will always be odd sized and not evenly filled… even at sushi bars I’ve gotten them this way. Plate your sushi, add some gari and wasabi and a little dish for soy sauce. If you want to be really fancy, a drop of condiment on the top of each slice is a nice touch. If you keep your knife blade clean and warm (warm water rinse), your cuts will tend to be better. Use one hand to stabilize the roll. Try a gentle sawing motion intead of a straight slice and use an unserrated knife with a long, sharp, thin blade (I use a utility/filet knife).
Above all else, have fun. Don’t forget that even though this is a traditional food from a land steeped in tradition, there is always room for innovation and just making it the way you like it. The best cooking is all about keeping the best parts of tradition and mixing them with the best parts of innovation.