When trying a sushi recipe, we’re on a California roll

The other day at the store Daniel was begging for sushi–which he had had only once before–so I picked out some that was fully cooked to take on our picnic the next day.

When Daniel pulled his sushi out of the cooler, Leo’s friend wanted to taste it, but she has a sesame seed allergy, so we couldn’t share. And that got me thinking.

Our 4-year-old loves preparing food, and sushi is something I have never tried to make. Why shouldn’t we invite our friend to make sushi with us–without sesame seeds–and see how it turned out? Her mother loved the idea, and my online research made me feel confident we could pull it off.

We just needed to find a bamboo mat, and the sushi-making sites said you could find them in most grocery stores.

I decided we would make California rolls, where everything is cooked, and where we could use crab and avocado–two foods Daniel and I happen to love. We bought some carrots, too, because they looked so pretty at the store.

And, although I couldn’t find the bamboo mat at a department store or an upscale organic grocery store, I did track it down at our ordinary grocery store. And it was less than $4.50. The store also had everything else I needed:

Plastic wrap
Rice vinegar
Nori (seaweed)
Sushi rice

The prep time here is listed at 20 minutes. I just laughed out loud when I saw that because I’m pretty sure it took us more than an hour. Still, we made a lot of sushi and we were also feeding bits of crab and avocado and seaweed to our assistants who kept stopping by to help and hover and taste.

After we started, I regretted not splurging on a second bamboo mat since we could both have been rolling at the same time.

But overall I have to say we were both surprised at how doable it was, and we would absolutely do it again. I would never delve into the world of raw fish, but I would definitely try other vegetables and cooked fish. It required some artistry, some direction-following, and a little bit of adventure, and then we had fresh, delicious, lovely sushi.

Here is how to make a California roll:

1.       Cook your sushi rice according to the instructions on the rice container, adding the rice vinegar it asks for on the instructions at the end. (Because we didn’t have seasoned rice vinegar, I stirred in a little soy sauce.) Although many sites said we needed a rice cooker, I cooked it in the pan. Some of the rice burned on the bottom, but I figure my measurements may have been off. We had more than enough rice to work with.

2.       Slice/dice all your vegetables while rice is cooking.

3.       Place plastic wrap on the bamboo mat and place a half-piece of seaweed, shiny side down on the plastic. (We cut ours with scissors.)

4.       Spread a thin layer of sushi rice on the seaweed. If you are using sesame seeds, you can add them to the rice now. You will need a bowl of water with a little vinegar in it to dip your fingers in to get the excess rice off of your hands as you work.

5.       Then flip the whole piece over so the rice is against the plastic. (You can also make the rolls with the seaweed on the outside, but we liked how they looked with the rice outside.)

6.       Place the vegetables and crab on the seaweed. 

You will want to put a lot on because it all looks and smells so wonderful. Resist the temptation to stuff a lot. You have to roll them and there’s only so much space inside those rolls!

7.       Then you start rolling from the bottom, rolling the bamboo mat over the roll, and tucking the ingredients inside as you go. As the roll forms, you use the mat to press the rice so it comes together and joins the rice on the other end.

This was one of our first, and we put it back in the plastic wrap
and kept rolling it inside the bamboo mat. It turned out just fine.

8.       Our rolls slipped right out of the plastic wrap, and my friend was amazing with her cutting skills, slicing the pieces off beautifully and making them look good on the plate.

We didn’t include wasabi inside ours, but you could add it easily while placing the vegetables inside. We offered ours with the soy sauce for dipping because I wasn’t sure the children would like the spice–though Leo does love his spicy food.

We served our sushi immediately, and it was delicious!

Then I covered some with plastic wrap and saved it for John to try that evening, and it was still quite good. I think this would be a fun, different appetizer to bring to a party, and you’d get to spend 20 minutes explaining how you made it.

After all, the only thing that might be more fun than making sushi might be talking about making sushi. And suddenly it occurs to me that I can’t recall the last time we were invited to a party where we brought anything other than juice boxes. I wonder why….

Have you made your own sushi rolls? I’d love to hear from you!

Find more new recipes at Try a New Recipe at Home to 4 Kiddos

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.