August 5, 2011


I love sushi. It's nice to look at, it tastes good, and it involves nutritious sea vegetables (iodine, anyone?). Unfortunately, it's also really pricy.

The first time I ever made sushi on my own, I was shocked at how little food actually went into making each maki roll (a sheet of nori, a handful of rice, and some thin strips of fillings). I regretted that I had ever paid $3.50 and up for each roll. I was also surprised at how easy it was to make and swore to never to buy sushi again.

I use Alton Brown's sushi rice recipe. It is important to stick with the short grain rice (also called sushi rice). Be careful not to get short-grain sweet rice by mistake (like I once did). I have tried substituting the sushi rice with medium-grain white rice and with long-grain brown rice, and both came out terribly. For the rice, you've got to stick with short-grain. There is also short-grain brown rice but I haven't tried it yet.

You will need one bamboo mat to roll the sushi. You can get one for $2-3 at an Asian market, or online for a couple dollars more. You will need to wrap the mat in plastic wrap so food doesn't get all up in the mat.

For my sushi today I made a spicy tempeh filling, inspired by The Post Punk Kitchen's recipe.

Spicy Tempeh Sushi (makes 4 rolls)
  • 4 ounces tempeh (half a package), steamed. (Or, in my case, microwaved in a bowl of water for a few minutes because my building's gas is still off.)
  • 2 Tablespoons mayo (I used original Vegenaise)
  • chili sauce to taste (I used 3 teaspoons of Sriracha)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 cups prepared sushi rice, a la Alton Brown
  • 4 sheets nori (unless you absolutely must have your nori raw or organic, I strongly suggest you get it from an Asian market where it is much much cheaper)
  • desired veggies, chopped finely or cut into long, thin strips
  • Mash the tempeh, mayo, chili sauce and sesame oil together until well combined and resembles tuna salad.
  • Take a nori sheet and lay it on your plastic-wrap-covered bamboo mat, shiny side down.
  • Spread a thin layer of sushi rice over the lower 3/4 of the sheet, leaving some nori exposed on the upper edge which you should wet lightly with your fingers so the roll seals properly (like an envelope). You will need about a cup of rice. The rice will be sticky so you'll need to work with wet hands and keep wetting them as needed.
  • In the center of the rice, lay strips of your ingredients.
  • Using the bamboo mat, fold the lower part of the roll over to tightly enclose the rice and fillings then finish rolling, up to the wet seal. It's really hard to explain and I don't know if I did it justice, so here is a link to a video.
I made one roll with the spicy tempeh (upper line) with shredded carrots and diced celery (lower line) with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over all.

The other roll had the spicy tempeh (upper line) with avocado (lower line) with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over all.

Yummy with pickled ginger on the side.

I get tempeh for $1.69 at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. A $1.69 block of tempeh is enough to make 8 rolls, which would feed 3-4 people. So that's only like $5-7, tops, (including the other ingredients) to feed sushi to a few people (but much cheaper if you avoid pricier fillings like avocado and tempeh). Nuts, I tell you!

Do you like sushi? What are some of your favorite fillings?

Vegan on a Shoestring

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