Let's get one thing out of the way first: sushi does not have to involve raw fish. Certainly mine doesn't. Somehow I don't have that much confidence in the fish I get from my local supermarket, and then after carrying around a bento for hours... Don't get me wrong, I like the raw fish, squid, et cetera sushi. I just don't make 'em.
That said, here are the types of sushi I've made for my lunches. Some are very close to regular types, some aren't. All are easy to make, if you can get the hang of rolling it. Here's some help for beginners.
Sushi rice: You can either make proper sushi
rice, which involves vinegar and stuff, or you can
just make regular sticky rice according to the instructions
on the package. Choose the approach that suits your
Avocado maki: Make some sushi rice. Lay
out a thin strip of nori, maybe three inches wide by
the full length long, so you can make a narrow roll.
Spread the rice on the nori only one grain thick, and
leave the half-inch of nori closest to you free of rice.
Lay long, thin slices of avocado down the center. Roll
it up. With luck you'll end up with a roll about as
big in diameter as a quarter. Slice it up and serve.
Baby Octopus Sushi:
Clean and cook the baby octopi according to the directions
on the octopus page. Make
some rice blocks, set an octopus on top of each - they
shrink during cooking, so you won't need huge blocks
like Spam musubi does - and then cut a thin strip
of nori to make a "belt" to hold the octopus
on the block. A drop of water on the underside of the
loose end of the nori will stick it down.
Make some rice blocks, either by rolling a log of rice without putting in any fillings or by making it with a rice mold. Then cut slices
of bacon (cooked!) the size of the rice blocks and lay
'em on top. If you want, wrap a strip of nori around
the whole thing, moistening the underside of the end
to stick it down. Note: This takes a little bit of finesse
to eat because bacon is tougher than typical sushi ingredients.
Make some sushi rice. Cook two pieces of bacon, making
sure they don't get dry and hard. Press the grease off
the surface with a paper towel, then chop the bacon into
small bits. Lay out the sushi rice so it'll be ready
to roll. Break two eggs into a small frying pan and
dump in the bacon. Mix well, then scramble the eggs
over medium heat. Cook the mixture until it's mostly
solid but not yet dry. Take off heat and break up the
thicker chunks with the spatula. Then put this in the
center of the rice and roll it up. Makes two rolls,
8 pieces each.
- Cut some artificial crab legs in half the long way
to make thinner sticks, and mix these around in a bowl
with about 1 tsp of mayonnaise per leg plus a light
dash of salt. Cut strips of avocado. Spread a thin
layer of rice on a sheet of nori, lay the fillings
inside, then roll it up with your bamboo mat, so you
end up with a rice-nori spiral around the central fillings.
The inside-out variation
of this is popular.
Chirashi-zushi - This goodie, which is a meal
by itself, is complicated and tasty enough to merit
its own page.
Crab & Cucumber Sushi: Get some fake crab meat - you know, the stuff that's really made with pollack and tastes not much like crab - and some nori. And, of course, cucumber and rice. Spread the rice thinly on the nori, as thinly as you can manage it, covering all but the half-inch closest to you. If you have salmon roe, spread some along the center of the rice where you will lay the fillings. Then put thin strips of peeled cucumber
and "crab meat" along the center. You're not likely to have strips long enough to go the whole length, which is fine - just put two or even three end-to-end. Roll it up and press it tightly. Bingo, it's a California roll minus the avocado!
maki - Just like avocado
maki, except with strips of artificial crab meat.
Or real crab meat, if you have that handy.
- Get some crab meat as used above, and a rice block
as used below, and stick the former on the latter. The
crab meat I've used in layered in such a way that you
can unwrap it so it'll fit neatly over the top of a
rice block as opposed to just balancing on top.
maki - Peel a cucumber, cut the non-seed flesh into
strips about 1/4" thick,
them up just like avocado maki.
- These can be made two ways. One involves taking a
peeled cucumber and carefully spiral-slicing it with
a long, sharp knife so you get a long, thin sheet of
cucumber to use as a wrap. I haven't had the patience
to try that yet, so I took the easier route and
cut a peeled cucumber into 1.5 inch segments, scooped
out the inside to make hollow skins, and then put the
rice in that. You will have to pack the rice down
a tad to keep it from falling out when you pick it up.
Anyway, fill the skin most of the way with rice,
then put any topping you like on top. I've used salmon
roe and shrimp, curled up into little spirals that nestle
into the round cucumber skin.
Futomaki - This means "big fat roll," and that's basically what it is. Other sushi is designed to be eaten in one bite; futomaki rolls are too large for that. To make one, first get a piece and a half of nori. Moisten the bottom 1.2 inch of the full sheet and stick the half-sheet onto that, so you end up with one very long (legal-sized?) nori sheet. Spread the rice onto that, leaving the bottom 1/2 inch free. Draw an edge of the rice paddle the short way along the rice to score shallow grooves into it. Make a number of these about an inch apart. Then put the fillings along the grooves, one filling per groove. The fillings can be whatever you like; I use cucumber, crab, shiitake mushrooms, omelet, avocado, smoked salmon, et cetera, depending on what I have on hand. Whatever it is, cut it into strips and put it along the grooves. Then roll it up as you would a regular maki roll, being careful not to press the fillings toward yourself. (That's what the grooves are for - to keep the fillings in place as you roll the thing up.) When it's rolled, moisten the inner side of the bit of nori on the bottom that wasn't covered by rice and stick that to the main roll. I usually squeeze futomaki firmly before cutting it up, because it has more of a tendency to fall apart if you don't.
Hot dog maki -
We sure are getting far from authentic Japanese cuisine
with this one, aren't we? Microwave a hot dog. (I prefer
Hebrew National franks. They cost more, but they taste
great, and I'm a little more confident of their content
than cheaper hot dogs.) Then set some plastic wrap on
the bamboo rolling mat and, instead of putting the rice
on a sheet of nori, spread the rice directly on the
plastic. Make a rectangle as wide as the hot dog is
long and about 4 inches long, pressing the grains down
to make them stick to each other. Put the hot dog down,
roll the rice & hot dog up, then secure the plastic
around the roll - tucking the ends in to keep the rice
from squeezing out like toothpaste from a tube - and
compress the roll in the bamboo mat. Compress
it good so it'll stay together without the nori, but
don't crush it.
If you have rice
paper spring roll wrappers, I recommend using those,
as they will keep the rice together, and you won't have
to squeeze the grains so hard they lose their rice-y
Inari-zushi - This
is sushi rice stuffed inside a fried tofu bag. Totally
simple stuff - cook some sushi rice (regular rice will
come off as pretty bland) and stuff it inside a tofu
bag made for just this purpose. You can buy tofu made
just for this frozen or canned. Either way, just follow
the directions on the package, and be careful when opening
and stuffing the tofu bags so you don't tear them. You
can pack inari-zushi with the open side up or fold the open end over and serve it with
the end underneath.
- These take a little more skill to make than the usual
maki, but only a little. Start out by following the
directions as if you were going to make any other kind
of maki roll, for example avocado maki,
but after you put the rice on the nori turn it
upside down, so the nori side is up. (This is easy to
do if you're making it on plastic wrap. Just cover it
with a second sheet of plastic wrap and flip it over.) Press the nori
down with flat, moistened hands to make the rice stick to
it. The lay the fillings on the nori and roll it
up. You don't want to put too much filling in, however,
because you need to have a bit of overlap so the roll
will stay together. You can sprinkle this with sesame
seeds before you turn the nori-rice sheet over, or even roll the
finished maki it in 'em, for an added crunchy
Kampyo-Maki - Kampyo
is strips of dried gourd, and in the package looks more
like heavy twine than something you'd eat. To use the
stuff you 1) cut a length of it, however much you plan
to use; 2) soak it in water for about 10 minutes; 3)
put salt in your hands and crumple the kampyo to rub
in the salt; 4) rinse; 5) put the kampyo in boiling
water and simmer for 20 minutes until soft; and 6) combine
a cup of dashi, 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, 1.5 tablespoons
of soy sauce, and 1/2 tablespoons of mirin, and simmer
the kampyo for about 30 minutes, until the liquid is
nearly gone. (Or you can be lazy and just drain off
most of the boiling water and then sling in some soy.)
When all that's done you have a ribbon of kampyo, which
you can put in the middle of a sushi roll. The kampyo-maki
I've seen are narrow rolls, with a diameter about
the size of a quarter.
Nori-Wrapped Rice Blocks: Either roll a log of rice, just as if you were about to make sushi, but don't add any fillings; or stamp out some rice blocks with a rice mold. Then cut some strips of nori about an inch and a half wide and wrap them around the blocks. If your rice molds are the right shape you can put the nori in them before adding the rice. It's kind of pushing it to call this sushi, but then sushi doesn't have to involve fish.
Sushi: Get some baby octopi, the little bitty
ones. Cut off the heads and pick out the beaks with
the tip of a knife. Heat up a pan to medium and put
in a tablespoon of butter. (Or more or less, depending
on how many occies you're cooking. You just want to
keep them from burning and sticking.) Put one octopus
on the pan, colored side upward, tentacles spread. It'll
squirm as it cooks. Turn it over after about a minute,
when it starts to stand up. (Trust me, you'll see what
I mean.) It will turn inside out and stand up as the
other side cooks. After half a minute take it off the
heat. Now take some sushi rice in your hand and shape
a ball about the size of a golf ball. Make a hollow
in one side, big enough to fit the base of the curled-up
octopus in, and do just that, with the tentacles sticking
outward. It will look a little like an open barnacle.
Mm-yum, what tasty imagery!
As is obvious from the name, these are an American invention.
They contain smoked salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese,
the latter of which gives this roll its name. They're often
rolled inside-out, with
sesame seeds sprinkled on the outside.
maki - Cook and season some shiitake mushrooms
according to the directions in the chirashi-zushi
page. Then cut the mushroom caps into strips and roll
them up just like avocado maki.
Shiitake Sushi: Make
some simmered shiitake mushrooms,
then put them on top of rice blocks and belt 'em in
with nori. With small mushroom caps one per rice block;
if the mushrooms are larger cut them in half.
Shrimp Sushi: Get some BIG shrimp. Shell them, leaving the tails on if you want to be fancy. Devein them by slicing shallowly along the back and pulling out the dorsal "line." Then stick bamboo skewers all the way down the shrimp, straightening them out as you go. This will keep them from curling up when you cook them. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and stick the skewered shrimp in for about two minutes to cook them. Take 'em out, let them cool, take out the bamboo skewers, then cut them from the belly upward, cutting almost to but not through the back. Open them up like butterflies and put them on top of blocks of rice.
Smoked Salmon Maki: Just
like avocado maki, except with smoked salmon strips instead
of avocado. Cucumber tastes good with the salmon too.
Smoked Salmon Sushi: This one is really tough. Get some smoked salmon. Make some rice blocks, either by rolling a log of rice without putting in any fillings or by making it with a rice mold. Then cut rectangles of smoked salmon about the same size as the rice blocks. Put them on top of the rice blocks.
Sushi Sandwiches: Get a mold to make rice blocks.
Fill the mold halfway, then put in slices of smoked
salmon that roughly match the block size and shape.
Cover with more rice, press, then shake them out.
Wetting the mold before filling it can help keep the rice from sticking,
which can be a problem with the way this stuff is split
in the middle by the fish. The original recipes I've
found actually direct you to make it in a pan, then
cut the layer of sushi into pieces, but I'm not
into mass production.
Smoked Salmon &
Kampyo Sushi: Prepare the kampyo as described
in the kampyo-maki recipe.
Spread rice onto nori as with other sushi rolls,
lay smoked salmon along the center, put a strip of kampyo
on top of that, and then roll it up.
Squid sushi: The
squid sushi you get in restaurants is raw, and mine
isn't; you can't buy sushi-quality squid just anywhere.
Anyway, get a large squid tube (head). Cut rectangular
slices about 1"x2" out of the flattest parts.
(The more curved parts will curve more when you cook
them. Use them in a stir-fry or something else.) Fry
them in a bit of vegetable oil on medium heat, turning
every minute or two, until they are opaque white. Be
careful not to overcook, as squid gets very tough when
overcooked. Remove from the pan, allow to cool for a
few minutes, pull the rubbery membrane off the inner
side, then stick it on top of a rice block and eat.
I sometimes put a dab of juice from my bottle of pickled
ginger on top of the rice before adding the squid. You
may prefer wasabi.
Alternately, if you have baby squid you can boil
one of those for a few minutes, then put it on top of
a rice block and "seatbelt" it in with a strip
of nori. This is basically baby
octopus sushi, but with squid instead.
Get a mold to make rice blocks, or shape bite-sized
rice blocks by hand. Then cook some egg and stick it
on top, wrapping a narrow belt of nori around the middle
if need be to keep it in place. How to cook the egg?
You can use a thin sheet, cooked as you would for chirashi-zushi
but without cutting into "noodles." You can
use the same recipe, but cooked in a thicker sheet.
I prefer to use thin slices of rolled
omelet because of the pretty spiral pattern.
Tuna & Mayo Maki:
Open a can of tuna. Drain it well, then mix mayonnaise
liberally in. Roll it up in rice according to the avocado maki
directions. (Use fake soy-based mayo if you're going
to pack this into a nonrefrigerated bento lunch.)
basically some unagi
no kabayaki over a block of rice. A good way
to use up those scraps of leftover eel.
Really, anything goes when you're making sushi. Put
whatever you like in there! I'll often use whatever
I have on hand, including:
- smoked salmon
- shiitake mushrooms, cooked as described in the
- cream cheese
- rolled omelet cut into noodle-like strips
- artificial crab meat
- broccoli stems (steamed soft)
- tuna steak
with Toppings: As with nori-wrapped
rice blocks, these aren't exactly what you think
of as sushi, but sushi doesn't have to involve fish.
There's other stuff you can put on sushi-type rice blocks.
(rice flavoring) which comes in a shaker and can
be sprinkled on top.
- Toasted sesame seeds add a nice texture. Can
just be sprinkled on top, but I like to roll the
block in the seeds.
- Shrimp. Little cocktail shrimp. Why not?