Nori Wraps (a.k.a. "Sushi")
Nori wraps are a real treat for us. We enjoy playing around with the vegetable ingredients and finding new and exciting flavour combinations. Typical vegetable nori wraps are not very exciting- they often contain a slice of cucumber, carrot and/or avocado. Instead we like to use combinations of those ingredients along with others such as grilled tofu or tempeh, watercress, spring onion, courgette, red pepper and assortments of sprouts. In the photos on this post I used grilled asparagus (it was on sale) and avocado (a staple in our household). We like to mix wasabi together with tamari/soy sauce to form a sludgy paste to dip our rolls into (spicy!). We also like to use sriracha as an additional condiment, but who wouldn't?
You will need a little kit to make assembly easy (see below). As with many wraps, such as the Rice Paper Wraps in a previous post, there are ways of making pretty amazing rolls depending on how the fillings are placed. I have yet to master any rolls that come within a striking distance of good-looking, but do not let aesthetic concerns deter you. There is something inherently impressive about home-made "sushi", so give it a try and roll away.
I will probably return to the topic of nori wraps and different fillings in a separate post, and will include a video of how to roll a nori wrap. If it is too much trouble for what it is worth or if you are reluctant to give it a go, you could still enjoy the flavour combinations in a different yet equally enjoyable manner by making a sushi bowl (see the suggestions and the photo at the bottom of this post).
The key to making a successful nori wrap is the rice. In fact, the word "sushi" is Japanese for the rice mixture that goes into the rolled-up end product that we generally refer to as sushi. Get the rice right and then master your rolling skills. I use short grain brown rice as it retains a nice bite and is less likely to become soggy and mushy. Using brown rice also eliminates the additional step of rinsing the rice to remove excess starch and other undesirables. I also use brown rice vinegar as I find the flavour more subtle and sweet. I also find that using brown rice vinegar allows me to get away with not using mirin (a type of sake/rice wine typically used as an ingredient in sushi). Otherwise I just add some brown sugar and a bit of salt.
Rice: (Serves 2 hungry adults as a main). Makes 5 wraps to be cut into thinner or thicker pieces according to preference.
- 1 X cup (225g) short grain brown rice
- 2 X cup (500ml) water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp brown rice vinegar (regular rice vinegar also works)
- Add the rice and water to a large pot with a lid. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for approx. 35 minutes. Set the alarm to go off after 30 minutes and check to ensure that the water hasn't completely evaporated and the rice is not starting to burn. The rice should be moist, but not wet. I use a large pot to give the rice enough space to steam in, and to make sure that the water doesn't boil over.
- In a small bowl vigorously mix the salt, sugar and vinegar - take care to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Pour the vinegar mixture over the cooked rice - the rice should still be hot. Mix well, cover and let the rice rest and absorb the flavours until it has cooled.
- A large pot with a lid
- A few small bowls
- A rolling mat (see photos below)
- A chopping board
- A very sharp knife
- 1 med-large avocado
- 1 bundle (250g) asparagus
- Avocado can oxidize and turn brown, so slice once you are ready to begin rolling to minimise the time it is exposed to air.
- Snap off and discard the tough ends at the bottom of the asparagus spears, then wash and dry well.
- Put your griddle plate (or frying pan) on and once it is very hot, lay on the asparagus and cook for 5-10 min (depending on thickness of your asparagus), turning the spears every couple of minutes. I did not use oil or salt (the rice has salt and we dip the rolls into tamari which is also salty), but dry-grilled the spears. The result was green, crunchy and slightly smokey asparagus, yummy!
- As with many recipes, it is best to have all of your ingredients ready (don't neglect the mise en place) so that you are ready to assemble with ease.
- Place your rolling mat on a chopping board, and place the nori sheet on top of the rolling mat.
- The next steps can only be practiced, so do not be disappointed if the first couple of rolls are not successful. You can still eat the result, even if it is with a fork.
- Spread the rice over the nori sheet. The rice layer should not be too thick, about 2-3 mm, and should not cover the entire sheet. The rice is what keeps it all together, it is the "glue", and you will notice that it is sticky, so just dab your fingers in water as you spread it onto the nori sheets.
- Put your fillings on so that they are close together and stick out from the edges of the nori sheet (see image below).
- Begin to shape the wrap using the rolling mat to lift up the nori sheet and as an extra "skin" of the roll so that the filled nori sheet rolls evenly. The roll should be tight, but not too dense.
- Once you are ready to close the wrap, dip you fingers into a bowl of water and gently wet the top end of the nori sheet so that you can seal it shut on your final roll.
- Slice the rolls using a very sharp knife. I leave the end-pieces longer so that I cut into a firmer part of the roll. Each roll should yield about 5 pieces (or more, if you like serving smaller slices).
Sushi Bowl: (with avocado and wasabi dressing)
- Vegetables, prepared as above
- 1 X med-large avocado
- Fried tofu (optional)
- 1 X cup water
- 1 tbsp wasabi paste, or to taste
- Salt to taste
- Cook rice as above.
- Prepare and slice all vegetables.
- Slice or tear the nori sheets into strips.
- If you are adding tofu, cut into 1 cm thick slices, marinate in tamari/soy sauce for 30 min. and then cook on a heated griddle or skillet until charred, then chop into bite-sized pieces.
- In a blender, whiz together the avocado, wasabi paste and water. Add salt to taste.
- Place rice in a bowl, add your chosen toppings, and pour that spicy creamy sauce over the whole thing.