I’ve been resigned to the same one or two veggie options at most run-of-the-mill Japanese restaurants for awhile now. But the final straw was the family birthday meal last year at a Japanese steakhouse (where the food is cooked in a showy way in front of you on a tabletop grill, like at a Benihana). Everyone else at the table went with the teppanyaki meal, I had a couple of vegetarian sushi rolls. No big deal.
I’m quietly eating my rolls when the chef decides to gift me with a few pieces of extra meat at the end of his cooking. I see him reaching over in my direction with a big smile and a “Happy Birthday!” I couldn’t say “No, no, no, I’m vegetarian!” fast enough (yes, I’m vegan but in this case, I said vegetarian for rapid comprehension, figuring he’ll understand vegetarian faster than vegan).
With a stricken look, the chef took back the meat as quickly as he had dumped it on my plate. For a split second, I can feel myself starting to freak out but realize that none of the meat actually touch my sushi. I hastily wiped off the remaining meat juices on the plate with a napkin and moved the rest of my food away from the affected area.
Since then, I’ve been making sushi at home and much happier for it. It’s not nearly as neat or as fancy-looking as a professional but it sure is fun to try out different fillings. My current favorite is this spicy chickpea hand roll – mashed up chickpeas with vegan mayo and sriracha, cucumber, and broccoli sprouts. I kinda just wing it on the filling, using more or less of each ingredient based on personal preferences rather than exact amounts.
Spicy Chickpea Hand Roll
Cooked or canned chickpeas
Nori (sushi seaweed)
Cooked sushi rice, recipe below
Cucumber, cut into thin strips
Black sesame seeds
In a bowl, mash the chickpeas. Add in the mayonnaise and sriracha to taste and sprinkle in furikake if using. Mix to combine.
Cut a nori sheet in half and place shiny-side down in your hand. On the left side, spread a thin layer of rice over one-third of the nori. Place the chickpea mixture, cucumber and broccoli sprouts diagonally across the middle of the rice. Don’t over stuff otherwise it’ll be hard to roll up.
From the bottom left corner, roll up over the rice into a cone shape. Continue rolling the cone and seal the edge with a bit of rice in the corner and close tightly to finish the hand roll. Top with additional chickpeas if desired and garnish with black sesame seeds.
2 cups sushi rice, using the measuring cup that came with the rice cooker
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
In the rice cooker inner pot, rinse the rice several times. Add water up to the indicated line on the inner pot. Push cook.
When the rice is cooked and ready, combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Transfer the rice to a glass or wood bowl and add the mixture to the hot rice (the heat will dissolve the sugar and salt). With a rice paddle, fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice. Allow to cool to room temperature before using for sushi.