Sushi rolls, or nori maki, are such an obvious way to class up a party.
People are so impressed to see a tray lined up with black and white rolls. “Oooh, suuuushi,” they’ll gush. But if you don’t eat fish, plain old cucumbers and avocados can get a little tired. So why not make your own maki?
Don’t be daunted by the prospect of homemade maki. You don’t need to be a trained sushi master to twist up a platter of rolls — just follow these easy instructions on how to make a sushi roll and let your imagination fly. Want a few filling ideas that will knock their socks off? Have at these:
1. Red miso with mango.
Just smear the rice with miso, lay on mango slices, then roll. This hits the salty/sweet thing perfectly. You can also use under-ripe mango for a little sour-crunch.
2. Grilled radish and scallion.
Slice daikon radishes into matchsticks, then grill with whole scallions in a hot, dry pan until browned and slightly tender. Dress the grilled veggies in sesame oil before rolling.
3. Egg and pickle.
Add a drop or two of soy sauce and a pinch of sugar to lightly beaten egg, cook like a thick omelet (tamago) and slice into strips. Add chopped store-bought Japanese pickles (tsukemono). It might sound a little weird, but egg salad isn’t the only place where eggs and pickles party in perfect harmony.
4. Sauteed shiitake mushrooms with spinach.
Thinly slice the mushrooms and sauté in a light oil with minced ginger until tender. Add clean spinach and stir it around in the hot pan until it’s wilted. Add a drop of sesame oil before rolling.
5. Baked teriyaki tofu and pineapple.
Japanese and Hawaiian flavors are best mates, and this sushi roll combo is proof. Who needs Spam?
6. Simmered Japanese eggplant (nasubi no nimono).
Combine vegetable broth with sake, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and ginger. Score their skins diagonally, then simmer the slender Japanese eggplants until tender. Drain, quarter lengthwise and roll up with rice.
7. Tempura asparagus.
It might seem like a bit of a hassle, but you can fry a lot of battered asparagus at once, and good lord, do they taste wonderful. You can also wrap each spear in a single leaf of filo and bake, instead.
8. Kimchee and other Korean goodies.
You know all those tiny dishes you get before your meal at a Korean restaurant? Banchan make great sushi fillings, and if you live near a Korean deli you don’t even have to do the work yourself. Spicy pickled lotus root, simmered burdock, crunchy seaweed salad, sautéed spinach, fried tofu skin? I’ll take one of each, please. And since kimchee is lacto-fermented, it’s full of gut-healthy probiotics.
9. Avocados, beets and pea shoots.
Fresh pea shoots are available at most Asian groceries. Roast the beets to minimize bleedout into the rice, or just rock some pink rice in your rolls.
10. Stuffed cucumbers.
It’s like the turducken of sushi, but no birds were harmed. Take a thin cuke (Japanese or Persian preferably; English cukes are fine) and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seedy flesh, leaving two little boats. Fill with cream cheese and salty capers, or go Korean and fill with a mix of mild chile flakes, chopped chives, crushed garlic, shredded carrot and a pinch of sugar and sesame seeds. Oh, how your friends will marvel at your handiwork when you roll it all up and slice it into kaleidoscopic rounds.