Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beyond Sushi......vegan sushi is more than just cucumber rolls!

The "Mighty Mushroom" roll from Beyond Sushi

The Inspiration:  A visit to Beyond Sushi, which is an amazing and super creative vegan sushi place in NYC. I will be writing up a more in depth review review soon, but suffice it to say that this place serves up amazing, creative, hearty, and healthy vegan sushi.
The dilemma: For most of my life as a vegetarian and then vegan I always had to order the boring cucumber roll at sushi restaurants. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a good old fashioned cucumber or veggie roll every once in a while, but sometimes you just want a heartier, more meaty/umami sushi. My inspiration for this roll was to make a more satisfying and protein packed vegan sushi roll that has more going on than plain old veggies. The mushrooms and the use of soy sauce in the marinade adds an umami taste to this filling, which will help to make the roll taste more satisfying. Umami may sound funny, but it's actually a critical flavor component, and the Japanese actually refer to it as the 5th element of taste; it is what adds a heart, almost meaty taste to things
Filling the fish gap: Instead of filling this roll with nemo's little brother and sisters (too much?) I decided to fill it with a delicious, lightly marinated tofu and marinated, cooked shiitake mushrooms. I kept some of the cucumbers and carrots for crunch and flavor variation, but the roll is probably 50% Tofu & Mushrooms and 50% veggies.
Nutrition decision: I chose tofu because it is a lean, complete protein, has fiber, and absorbs marinades well. I chose shiitake mushrooms because they have healing, medicinal qualities and are a good source of selenium (and they also just taste amazing); they also get really "meaty" when cooked down and absorb marinades well.

The Recipe: Vegan Umami Sushi Roll
This recipe will be broken up into 4 parts: Making sushi rice, making the fillings, making the sauces, and rolling the roll.

Sushi Rice: This part should be done at least 2 hours in advance so that the rice can cool before being used in the roll.
- 2 cups sushi rice (brown sushi rice is fine, I just used white because my brother will not touch brown rice......... sad day)
- 2 1/4 cups water (plus more for washing rice)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons can sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
1. Wash and drain the rice until the water runs clear. This will take a minimum of 5 rinses, but it usually takes me 8 because I have rice washing OCD (just kidding......maybe)
2. Put the rice and the water in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a summer for 15 minutes.
3. After 15 minutes remove the rice from heat and DO NOT TOUCH for 10 minutes.
4. In the meanwhile, mix the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and microwave just until all the sugar is dissolved.
5. Transfer the rice to a ceramic or wooden bowl and evenly drizzle the vinegar/sugar/salt mixture in.
6. Gently cut the mixture into the rice. This mean take a large wooden spoon to the edge of the bowl, press it so that it goes all the way through the rice to the side of the bowl, and then drag it across the bowl so that you have basically"cut" a line through the rice. Rotate the bowl and keep doing this gently until the rice seems evenly coated. (You never want to mix the rice because it will squish the rice and make it too goopy/sticky)
7. Cover the rice and let it sit for a few hours until it is room temperature. Do not put it in the fridge or freezer to cool, it will clump and get grainy.

Filling recipe:
Tofu Ingredients:
- one 12 oz. package of firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup (maple would work fine as well)
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine (mirin)
Tofu Directions:
1. Press the tofu for an hour. This can be done with a tofu press, but if you don't have one there is an alternative way to do it; I don't have a tofu press so I McGyvered it. You can simply wrap tofu in 2 or 3 paper towels, place it on the bottom side off a plate or baking sheet, with another plate or baking sheet on top, and then weight the sheet with heavy items. I weighted my baking sheet with canned beans.
Cooking Shiitake Mushrooms
2. After the tofu has had a significant amount of water squeezed out of it, thinly slice it, and put it in a ziploc bag.
3. In a bowl mix soy sauce, rice wine, brown rice syrup, sriracha, and ginger.
4. Add this marinade to the bag of tofu and let sit.

Shiitake Mushroom ingredients:
- 2 large, fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine
- 2 tablespoons water
Shiitake mushroom directions:
1. Slice mushrooms into 1 cm thick strips
2. Add mushrooms and the rest of the ingredients to a small, heavy bottomed pot.
3. Heat until mixture begins to bubble, then reduce the heat, place the lid on the pot and let cook for a minimum of 20 minutes.
4. Take the lid off and let it continute to cook until the liquid is almost entirely gone.
5. Remove from heat and let cool.
Fillings ready to go!

- 1 medium peeled cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
- 2 carrots, sliced into matchsticks
- thinly sliced avocado

Sauce Recipe:
- 2 tablespoons veganaise
- 1 teaspoon sriracha (add less or more depending on how spicy you want it)
1. Mix together and set aside.

Sushi Assembly
Additional Ingredients:
- Nori sheets
Ready to roll!
1. If you have a sushi rolling mat, lay the shiny side of the nori sheet face down on the mat. If not, just lay the shiny side of the sheet face down on a flat plate or cutting board.
2. Take a small handful (1/2-2/3) cup of sushi rice and place in the center of the sheet.
3. Spread the rice entirely from the top to the bottom of the sheet in the long direction, but only in the center third of the sheet in the horizontal (shorter) direction. You should have about 1.5-2 inches of uncovered sheet on each side of the tall rice strip.
4. Lay fillings slightly on one side of the center in the rice strip. Add as much of every filling and of the spicy sauce as you want. I omitted the spicy sauce in most of my rolls because the shiitake and tofu added more than enough flavor for me.
5. Once all the fillings are laid down, tightly roll up the sushi beginning with side where the fillings are closer to the edge of the rice, making sure to press it firmly throughout the entire process. (For example, in this picture, I would start rolling from the left side)
6. Let it sit for a few minutes and then cut with a very sharp knife.
7. **optional** Top each roll with a thin slice of avocado.

 Now enjoy yourself some lovely vegan sushi!
My completed rolls :)

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