My first trip to a sushi bar ended in humiliation and disappointment. Firstly; it was a maki roll less experience and secondly the usual discreet manner of ordering in this apparently shy and reserved nation was a complete contradiction.
I had to shout out my order so all ears were on my non existent nihongo and dodgy pronunciation, the latter isn’t too much of a problem these days, but the lack of avocado on menus continues to disappoint me. I know, I know, avocado isn’t traditionally used in sushi but who can blame me, my love of California rolls was sealed a thousand miles from Japan.
The Americans adapted the conventional dish and made it into a fashionable favourite, tweaking and experimenting with the ingredients to make it a firm palatable hit with even non-fish eaters. I think avocado is an acceptable ingredient in sushi, perhaps mayonnaise, cheese and fried meat, deserve the highbrow they get.
Even the name maki roll is a strange term that has gained international use, as maki means roll in Japanese so without knowing it, the majority of Westerners in sushi shops are ordering roll rolls.
Maki rolls are technically known as makizushi, the difference between California Rolls and makizushi is the way it’s rolled. The California Roll has the sushi rice on the outside with the nori on the inside. A maki roll has the sushi rice on the inside with the nori on the outside. California rolls are thus the Western take on the makizushi, using an interesting but perhaps to the Japanese eye (and tongue) an oxymoronic array of ingredients; I tried some mango and shrimp ones in Vietnam, my boyfriend wasn’t at all impressed.
Depending on the sushi shop, avocado is becoming more of an expected staple on a lot of menus, especially gearing towards a child friendly environment, my sushi preference is like that of a child, a fussy one: tuna, salmon and tamago are my three favourites, with a side of makizushi and an ample heap of ginger, I’m content.
Makizushi is the broader term used to describe rolled sushi, when wrapped in nori it is simply called norimaki:, there are two kinds of norimaki: hosomaki, thin rolls with a single filling and futomaki, thicker rolls with several fillings. hosimaki tend to be served in Japanese restaurants rather than futomaki.
It seems more Westerners make makizushi at home compared to Japanese, presumably as they take the leave it to the professionals attitude. And they have a point, the skill and ability of sushi chefs and the training they undergo is no secret. But I figured if I can make a half decent onigiri then a maki roll shouldn’t be too hard, especially when the only person I need to satisfy is myself (I’d hate to think what a sushi chef would have to say about my attempt).
But anyway, here is a recipe that has worked for me:
– a bamboo rolling mat (巻きす)
– chopsticks (although fingers are arguably enough)
– a rice cooker (not essential but recommended)
– sushi plates and small dishes for the soy sauce (again optional)
- 1 cup of white rice
- crab sticks
- 1 avocado
- 1 cucumber
- sesame seeds
- Pickled ginger (がり)
- good quality soy sauce (when cooking stir fry you can get away with the cheaper options but when used for dipping quality is important)
For the vinegar mixture:
2tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
4/5 tsp salt
– Mix hot cooked rice with the vinegar mixture and cool.
– Spread ¼ cup of the rice over the surface of 1 nori sheet, leaving ½ inch free.
– Press the rice down firmly but gently.
– Sprinkle sesame seeds on the rice.
– Place 2 pieces of the cucumber, avocado and crab sticks in the centre of the sheet (these need to be sliced finely in order for the roll to be tightly wrapped)
– Begin rolling the edge of the bamboo mat closest to you, using the mat to press down on the sushi roll firmly.
– Continue rolling, keeping it tight with every move until you reach the end of the nori.
– Pull away the mat and set aside.
– Repeat until all of the rice has been used.
– Using a wet knife cut roll into 4-6 pieces, depending on the size of the nori you use.
– Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.