But sometimes the level of detail out there can make certain simple things look like over-complicated and exclusive art forms.
Case in point: sushi.
A quick Internet search on how to make sushi makes me feel like saying:
And I’ve never ever said “damn bro”.
I challenge you to remain motivated to serve sushi at your next dinner party after reading this article’s equipment list.
I know I’m not alone in my conviction that cooking should be fun and easy. And there ain’t nothing fun or easy (or eco-friendly, come to think of it) about having to go out and buy a million gadgets and crazy ingredients that you’ll only use that one time you decide to make sushi.
Legit sushi chefs might well need all these accessories to make aesthetically perfect sushi. But us? Life is complicated enough already. Let’s agree to use our hands, and a bit of ingenuity.
But, wait, isn’t sushi all about raw fish?!
It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
There’s no need to poison yourself with mercury to enjoy sushi. Vegan maki is a thing. (Even the most modest of Japanese restaurants will gladly whip up some avocado and cucumber rolls for you. What’s more, they’ll be fresher, since they’re usually made to order. You’re welcome.)
Sushi is super delicious sans the fish. There’s the sweetness and squidginess of the rice, the saltiness of the nori, and the crunchiness of the raw veggies.
Now, back to the other complication: the need to procure a bamboo mat for rolling, or, failing that, to get all fiddly with a tea towel and clingfilm.
Stop press: we’ve been bamboo-zled by the mat thing. Unless you’re presenting your sushi at an ambassadors’ reception in Tokyo, or making California rolls (the ones with the rice on the outside), there’s no need to use a mat at all.
Sushi is not the finickity culinary performance it’s hyped up to be. It is in fact a quick weeknight meal option, or an easy finger food for picnics whose impressive look and reputation belies its simplicity.
I made mine with white pudding rice, but the recipe would also work with brown. Just choose a short-grain rice, and cook it for longer than usual so it’s all squidgy. I used raspberry vinegar from this lovely shop to flavour the rice, in the full knowledge that if one were making proper sushi, one would use rice wine (mirin) and sugar. But since I’m feeling a bit rebellious about this whole sushi-making malarky (and since I’m off sugar), I threw caution to the wind, and didn’t get any sticky rice in my hair. Score.
The first step is to coat your nori sheet, laid flat, with a thin layer of gooey rice, leaving about an inch uncovered at the top. You then lay thin slices of veggies (any veggie you like), on the bottom third of the rice. I love avocado for creaminess, cucumber for crunch, and carrots for sweetness. Just be careful not to use too many veggies or your maki will be tricky to roll (and too big to eat delicately!).
You can also sprinkle some sesame seeds on there before rolling, because when are sesame seeds not a good idea?
Then, carefully pick up the bottom part, with the veggies, and roll away. Re-compact the roll a few times, like so:
Use your finger to spread a little bit of warm water on the roll to secure the end of the nori to the roll. Then cut the roll in half with a very sharp knife (I used a ceramic knife), or carefully with a serrated knife.
Then cut each half into three:
(Made these this morning at breakfast time. Might have eaten them a little bit at breakfast time. Don’t tell.)
In my delight at having figured out how to do sushi, I got creative and tried using bulgur instead of rice (ooh, controversial). It was easy and delicious, so don’t hesitate to experiment with other starchy grains:
Make sure you cook your rice in advance, so it has time to cool and get extra squidgy
I hope this post has encouraged you to makey maki rolls. If so, we want to know how you got on in the comments below!
Now that my tummy is rumbling at the sight of them, I might have to go and whip up another batch…
Love and chopsticks,