OMG, I totally made sushi rolls!

It was an exciting afternoon.

Yesterday, we got a $2 bamboo sushi mat at World Market (we adore this place), and today I found sushi rice, nori (the seaweed wrappers), and fillings at Whole Foods. I read this recipe from Jill Davie and watched this video by Alton Brown, and I felt like I was all set. It was like The Matrix, when Trinity needs to know how to fly a helicopter, so she asks the controller guy to upload a helicopter program into her head, then she twitches for a few seconds and is ready to fly.

The hardest part was convincing myself that I could do it. This took months. The easy part was cooking the rice according to Jill Davie's detailed recipe, then putting everything together the way Alton showed me. I *heart* Alton. The part that was both hard and easy was eating it, because it was delicious, but we had too much, so there's some in the fridge that I'm not sure will be any good tomorrow.

Did you know that the term "sushi" actually means "vinegared rice", not something to do with fish, as so many people think it does? I learned this from Bobby Flay's sushi episode of Throwdown (which he lost very badly). Rice vinegar, sugar, and salt combine to make a solution that you sprinkle over the rice, then stir it so that it's well incorporated, and this rice is the base for many different kinds of sushi, not just the rolls, which are the only kind I've ever tried. I ended up cooking 2 dry cups of rice, just under half of what Jill Davie calls for, and it was enough to basically fill up a 9 x 13 Pyrex pan and ended up being enough to make 4 whole rolls of sushi, more than enough for 2 people.

I made the kind of rolls with the nori on the outside, rather than putting the rice on the outside in the style of California rolls, because I figured that my first time out, I ought to cut myself a break and use to my advantage the fact that the nori helps to keep everything together. I noticed that there were two kinds of nori sheets available: pre-toasted ready-to-use ones, and some that seemed like they'd need some extra work before they'd be ready. I went with pre-toasted. Also, I learned when I opened the package that the characteristic smell of sushi comes not from the fish inside but from the nori. It was interesting to discover the separate smells/tastes of the nori, the vinegared rice, etc., so that I can appreciate each subtle flavor in the sushi rolls.

I put a nori sheet on my little mat (on top of a cutting board), wet my hands and spread out some rice to nearly cover the seaweed, placed a few toppings along the length of the seaweed, then cautiously but rather amazingly rolled the whole thing up.

I looked at my first roll, shouted a little bit, and proclaimed to Kent that I had made sushi! He was more interested in his Mardi Gras beads, but what can you expect from a young sous-chef?

I made four rolls altogether, and they tended to get bigger as I went. My third roll was so big that some of the stuff oozed out the far side as I was rolling, so I learned my lesson and went back to a modest size for the last roll. (Note: the recipe suggests cutting each roll into 6 pieces, but we could hardly get them into our mouths, so I'd suggest cutting into 8. Also, I learned as I went that the tighter I rolled everything up, the easier it was to slice the roll.) Each roll was a slightly different combination of cucumber, carrots, bell pepper, and avocado, and most of them also contained a bit of cream cheese. I love Philadelphia rolls (cream cheese, cucumber, and smoked salmon), so incorporating thin slices off a brick of cream cheese was a no-brainer, and Jack liked the taste, too. There aren't many options at most restaurants for vegetarian rolls, so making our own with whatever toppings we wanted was pretty fun. Next time, I may buy some crab or krab and make my own separate rolls, but it was nice to make everything vegetarian tonight so that we could share.

Since I've now had the experience of making these and know how easy it is to interchange ingredients, I don't understand why sushi places don't just let you pick 3 or 4 ingredients you like instead of making you choose a pre-arranged combination. It would definitely make life easier for vegetarians if they could just ask for a few specific non-fishy things instead of hoping that there's something safe on the menu. Of course, vegetarians are probably among the least likely groups to say, "Hey, let's go out for sushi!", so there's that to consider as well.

Our dinner was rounded out by steamed broccoli, of which Kent shocked everyone by eating several pieces, and some mini egg rolls from the freezer. Kent also had some other foods that he liked, typical at dinnertime when we venture outside his comfort zone. I mixed up a dipping sauce with hoisin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, water, scallions, ginger, and red chili flakes, then also mixed up soy sauce and a bit of prepared wasabi like we do when we go out for sushi. We left the forks out of this meal and used our fancy wooden chopsticks, and then we stuffed ourselves so full of sushi, broccoli, and egg rolls that I might not eat dessert while we watch TV tonight.

Okay, maybe just a little piece of Dagoba roseberry.

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Yum! My family has sushi every year for Christmas (as well as tempura squid, shrimp, and veggies) so this really made me drool. Congrats on your special dinner!
Congratulations on your success! One thing I used to tell my Japanese students about myself to make them laugh was that I like sashimi (which means raw fish) but not sushi. This is because I don't like the rice vinegar. They think it's very funny. :-)
oh totally yumtastic!!!

This reminds me of the Gil girls episode were Lorelai makes "dessert sushi" for Rory who did not go to Asia with Logan who had to go to work in London instead.
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