Vegetarian Sushi Secrets: 101 Healthy and Delicious Recipes - Marisa Baggett (2016)
Selecting the right avocados for sushi use is essential. Look for ripe avocados that don’t give too much when gently squeezed. Avoid those that are too firm or have bruises. To ripen firm avocados, place them in a closed paper bag near a sunny windowsill.
These radishes are long, thick, and root-like in appearance. They can be found in most conventional grocery stores where radishes are sold. Daikon radishes are often cut into sections rather than being sold whole due to their size. Whether buying whole or cut pieces, be sure that they are firm. Exposed areas should not appear spongy. Store daikon in the refrigerator.
Fermented Black Beans
Chinese-style fermented black beans are not usually used in sushi, as they pack a powerful punch that could easily dominate more delicate flavor profiles. Paired with a more robust whole-grain sushi rice, however, a sauce made with these beans is a great topping. Fermented black beans, which contain salt and ginger, can be found in plastic bags at your local Asian market.
Fresh Ginger Root
When purchasing, look for small, young roots. Avoid ginger roots that are bruised, show signs of mold, or appear dried or overly soggy. Store fresh ginger in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Chopped or grated ginger may be frozen for up to three months.
Garlic Chili Paste
Commonly referred to as sambal oelek, garlic chili paste is an indispensable condiment for adding spicy flavor to recipes. It is so popular that many supermarkets carry jars of it in the Asian food aisle.
Panko Japanese Breadcrumbs
Panko is another Asian pantry staple that has found popularity in mainstream cooking. Look for plain Japanese-style panko in your grocer’s boxed breadcrumb section. Most varieties of panko are vegan.
To create this vegetarian sushi filling, strips of Japanese gourd (calabash) are shaved into long thin strips and dried. Some large Asian markets will carry the dried strips, but it is most easily found rehydrated and simmered in a sweetened soy and dashi broth liquid. Many conventional supermarket carry pre-simmered kampyo in convenient cans. If adding to sushi rolls, pat away some of the excess liquid. No additional cooking is needed.
Japanese cucumbers are preferred for sushi making because of their thin skins and small, soft seeds. The entire cucumber can be used without overpowering a sushi dish. If using conventional garden cucumbers, peel skins and remove seeds to yield a similar taste.
Inari Tofu Pouches
Inari pouches are made from deep-fried tofu skins (abura-age) that are then simmered in a sweetened soy-based liquid. They can be purchased in cans, plastic-wrapped trays in the refrigerated section, or in frozen packages. Be sure to check the packaging for ingredients. The simmering liquid varies with the manufacturer, and may contain dashi broth made from fish.
Japanese Soy Sauce
The recipes in this book rely on the flavor profile of Japanese-style soy sauce. A low-sodium variety is suitable for dipping sushi. However, if a recipe uses soy sauce as an ingredient, be sure to use the regular variety. Gluten-free tamari may be used interchangeably with soy sauce in the recipes.
Kombu, a type of kelp, is essential for imparting just the right flavor to dashi stock. It is most commonly found dried and folded into sheets. Look for kombu that is deep green in color. There may be a thin covering of a white powdery substance on the surface. To use, cut away only the amount you need with kitchen shears. Use a damp towel to wipe away the white powdery covering. Kombu should be stored in a cool, dry place.
This spicy fermented cabbage, borrowed from Korean cuisine, makes an impact in sushi. Kimchi can be purchased in small containers; it is usually refrigerated. Be sure to check the ingredients, as most brands use shrimp paste or dried fish as a flavoring. If unsure of purchased kimchi, see page 49 for a quick do-it-yourself version.
Matcha Green Tea Powder
Matcha powder can be purchased in small bags or tins. The powder has a very concentrated green color that lends a pleasant tint to recipes. A little goes a long way in imparting the earthy flavor. After opening, store matcha powder in a cool, dark place.
This sweet Japanese cooking wine can be found in most supermarkets where soy sauce is stocked. It is often labeled mirin or aji-mirin. If not available, sweet sherry may be substituted.
Miso, fermented soybean paste, is available in the refrigerated aisles of Asian markets and health food stores. Miso is most commonly available in white or red paste. A general rule of thumb is that the lighter the color of miso, the more mild and sweet the flavor. The recipes in this book can be made with any variety of miso desired.
Natto Fermented Soybeans
Natto is somewhat of an acquired taste. These fermented soybeans are very pungent, with a slimy texture. When separating natto, the slimy texture is quite visible and looks much like melted cheese strands. Look for natto in the refrigerated section of your local Asian market. Some markets even sell frozen natto in small tubs. Thaw according to package directions and store in the refrigerator.
Nori Seaweed Sheets
Packages of this dried sea vegetable are sold in 8 x 7-inch (20 x 18-cm) sheets. Store nori in a cool, dry place. Seal opened packages in a tight layer of plastic wrap or inside a zip-top plastic bag. When kept dry, nori has an indefinite shelf life.
Takuan Pickled Radish
Takuan pickled daikon radish is often bright yellow in color. The pickled daikon portion is usually left whole rather than being pre-cut. Look for takuan in plastic pouches in the refrigerated section of your local Asian market.
This condiment is a sushi favorite. Most familiar is the bright pink dyed variety. It can also be purchased undyed in a natural tan hue. Look for pickled ginger in either non-refrigerated jars or in plastic bags or tubs in the refrigerated section. Store pickled ginger in the refrigerator after opening.
Though not a grain, quinoa can be cooked like one and used to prepare sushi. Any of the varieties—black, red, or white—can be used. Be sure to use the recipe specifically for quinoa (page 22).
Selecting the proper rice for sushi is a top priority, as rice is the foundation of sushi. When purchasing white rice, only medium-grain or short-grain sushi rice must be used. Do not attempt to use jasmine, basmati, white long-grain, or parboiled quick-cooking varieties. Short-grain sushi rice is considered premium, and should be used once you have a few sushi rolling sessions under your belt. Beginners will find that medium-grain sushi rice is easier to handle.
Short-grain brown rice lacks the starch to provide a suitable medium for making rolls. For best results, opt for long-grain brown rice for sushi-making purposes. Do not use rice blends, wild rice, or other whole-grain varieties of rice for sushi. As with white rice, parboiled or quick-cooking varieties of brown rice will not produced the desired results. Be sure to follow the method used only for brown rice when making brown rice sushi (page 23).
Anko Sweet Red Bean Paste
Sweet anko red bean paste is made from red beans and sugar. It is available in cans or in plastic tubs at your local Asian market. After opening, refrigerate any unused portions.
Rice vinegar is so common that most grocery stores stock it with their other vinegars. Be sure to purchase pure rice vinegar that has not been blended with sugar, salt, or other flavorings. The label should list rice and water as the primary ingredients.
For cooking purposes, an inexpensive sake (rice wine) is suitable. If you plan on drinking the sake, too, opt for a midrange brand that is brewed to be served chilled.
The word shichimi (or nanami) comes from the Japanese word for the number 7. This spicy condiment contains seven different flavors—chili pepper, white sesame seeds, and black sesame seeds, and other seasonings like citrus peel, hemp seed, or ginger. Use it to give your spicy mixtures a unique flavor or as a topping for soups.
Shiso, or perilla leaf, is an herb that tastes much like a cross between basil and mint. It can be used as a garnish or eaten as-is. Green shiso has a mild pleasant flavor, while the red variety has a robust bite. Shiso can be found at an Asian market; it is also easy to grow at home. (Just be sure to check with your local extension as some areas consider it an invasive weed!) If shiso is unavailable, large sweet basil leaves may be substituted.
Unless you have Southern roots, you may be unfamiliar with this sweet syrup. It is cultivated from sweet sorghum grass stalks grown in the southern US. Sorghum syrup, which is vegan, can be used as an equal substitute for honey. Look for it at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Store opened jars in a cool, dark place.
Sriracha Hot Sauce
The popularity of this spicy pepper sauce makes it easy to find in supermarkets. Store opened bottles in the refrigerator.
If you have friends who can’t stomach the taste and texture of nori, soybean paper could be their saving grace. Unlike nori, soybean paper has a texture and unassuming flavor that most people find agreeable. The sheets can be purchased with or without added flavoring, and they are available in a multitude of colors. Soybean paper can be substituted for nori in any recipe where the sushi rice is on the inside of the roll. Look for soybean paper wrappers in whole or half-sheet sizes. (Use kitchen shears to cut sheets in half.) After opening, store tightly sealed in a cool, dark, dry place.
For best results, use unrefined granulated sugar. If you want to make a sweet substitute, use a granulated natural sweetener. Artificial sweeteners are not recommended.
Tahini, an ingredient that is most commonly found in Mediterranean-style cuisine, is a paste made from pressed, untoasted white sesame seeds. Reminiscent of smooth peanut butter, it usually comes with a thick layer of oil on top. Stir this into the tahini before measuring. Tahini should be stored in the refrigerator after opening.
Toasted Sesame Oil
When purchasing sesame oil, buy the dark toasted variety. Light sesame oil lacks the depth needed to reproduce the recipes in this book. Like many oils, toasted sesame oil can go rancid. To extend the shelf life, refrigerate opened bottles. The oil will get thick, but quickly becomes fluid again after returning to room temperature.
Toasted Sesame Seeds
All of the sesame seeds called for throughout this book should be toasted. Black, white, or a mixture of both may be used. To toast, add a thin layer of sesame seeds to a dry skillet over moderately high heat. Swirl the seeds in the skillet, being sure to keep them moving. As they begin to deepen in color and emit a popcorn-like aroma, keep a careful watch. They should be removed from the skillet just before they turn deep brown, as they will continue to toast a few seconds more. Allow to cool completely before use.
Tofu (firm or extra-firm)
Look for Japanese brands of firm or extra-firm tofu for the recipes in this book. Opt for water-packed varieties in your grocer’s refrigerated section. Some varieties can be stored at room temperature until opening. Once opened, be sure to use the tofu within two or three days. To store opened, unused tofu, place in a container of cool water and refrigerate. Drain and refresh the water each day for optimal freshness.
Umeboshi Plum Paste
This deep-purple paste has a tangy flavor much like sour candy. It can be purchased in squeeze bottles or small tubs. Treat this condiment like jam or jelly—refrigerate after opening.
Wakame is an edible sea vegetable that can be used in soups, salads, and sushi preparations. Look for it in the dried foods section of your local Asian market. To rehydrate, place wakame in warm water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It will expand quite a bit. Store rehydrated wakame in water in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For best results, rehydrate in small amounts.
Look for brands that list wasabi in the ingredients. Store the powder in a tightly sealed container. Wasabi powder is most potent when used just after mixing. Prepare only the amount you’ll need for each sushi adventure. To prepare, place 2 or 3 tablespoons of wasabi powder in a small dish. Add 1 teaspoon of water at a time, mixing well with a fork. The consistency should be much like that of toothpaste. Turn the dish upside down on a flat surface until ready to use. Any leftover wasabi paste may be covered and refrigerated. Use within two days.
Wonton wrappers come in a variety of styles and shapes. Square wonton wrappers can be easily found in Asian markets and most grocery stores in the refrigerated section.