Saturday, 13 November 2010

Vegan California Rolls from Asian Fusion

California rolls give a certain wow-factor when you serve them at home. They make a great appetizer and a beautiful component of an Asian dinner when paired with other delights.Traditionally you find (artificial) crab in a California roll, but this vegan variation uses fried tofu to pair with the creamy avocado. The results are delicious, addictive, and guilt-free!
I added a bit of sesame oil to the pan to fry my tofu, it gave it a bit more of an edge. This is a great recipe to get you started on vegan maki, and once you master it you can play with your own variations.

Asian Fusion is a lovely little book, filled with delicious vegan dishes from every Asian country you can imagine - Japan, China, India, Korea, Thailand, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and more.  Start your Asian odyssey today!

Asian Fusion
A Culinary Odyssey of Vegan Recipes
Chat Mingkwan
Softcover, 192 pages

California-Roll Sushi
Maki Nori

Serves 6; makes 6 rolls

This is a modified sushi roll that uses the famous California avocado. The rolling technique requires practice to get the rice and fillings wrapped snugly. Sushi is one form of Japanese art, and its presentation is as crucial as its taste. Practice makes perfect, and the end result of the sushi roll tells the tale of a sushi maker's skill. to give a spicy, snappy flavor to the sushi, wasabi paste is used. Wasabi is a Japanese version of horseradish derived from the root of wasabi plants. Wasabi is available in both paste and powered forms in most supermarkets. To make your own paste, mix the wasabi powder with cold water using a 1:1 ratio.

3 cups water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ pound fried tofu
1 large, ripe avocado
6 toasted nori sheets (each sheet about 4x7.5 inches)
3 cups cooked Sushi Rice (page 89, and below)
¼ cup wasabi paste, or more to taste, plus more for serving
1 bottle sushi or sashimi soy sauce, for serving

Combine the water and rice vinegar in a bowl large enough to fit both hands.
Slice the tofu into long, thin strips. Set aside.
Cut the avocado in half and discard the pit. Peel and slice the avocado lengthwise as thinly as possible, cutting it into long, thin strips.
Place a sheet of nori, shiny-side down, on a sushi mat, with one of the long edges facing you.
Wet both hands in the vinegar water, making sure that both palms are wet. Scoop about 1/3 to 1/2  cup of the rice and mold it loosely into a log. Place the log about ½ inch below the top long edge in the center of the nori. Gently spread the rice downward with tips of your fingers into a ¼-inch-thick layer over three quarters of the nori.
Evenly distribute 1/6 of the sliced tofu in the middle of the rice, running from the left to right sides of the nori. Top with strips of the avocado, distributing it evenly over the tofu. Spread the wasabi paste to taste evenly on the rice in front of the filling.
With your thumbs under the sushi mat and your fingers holding the filling in place, fold and curl the mat to initiate the roll. Continue rolling and folding, making sure that all of the rice and filling are rolled inside the nori. Gently squeeze along the mat to firm up the roll and shape it into a round log.
Remove the mat and put the sushi roll on a cutting board. Cut the roll in half with a sharp chef's knife, and then slice each half into thirds or quarters to obtain 6-8 equal pieces.
Arranged the pieces, cut-side up, on a serving platter. Roll and cut the remaining rice and filling in the same fashion to make 6 rolls in all. Serve the sushi with soy sauce and additional wasabi paste in small saucers on the side.

Sushi Rice 

Makes 6-7 cups; serves 6

Sushi rice recipes will not always work perfectly on the first try. Cooking rice over a gas stove or with an electric rice cooker will result in different outcomes. Most sushi chefs recommend using a rice cooker so that the texture of the rice is consistent. Sushi rice recipes should be viewed as a general guide; adjustments will need to be made to fit each particular circumstance. 

3 cups Japanese sushi rice
3 cups cold water, plus or minus ¼ cup
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Place the rice in a medium bowl and fill the bowl with cold water to about 2 inches above the rice. Wash the rice with both hands by rubbing the grains gently together. Drain. Repeat the rubbing process 2 to 3 times, with fresh water each time, until the water is almost clear. Drain in a colander.
Combine the rice with the 3 cups (plus or minus ¼ cup) cold water in a pot over medium-high heat. (Add enough water to cover the rice and so that the water comes up to the first knuckle on your index finger if you're touching the rice with the tip of your finger.) Stir to mix well.
Bring the water and rice to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand on hot stove for 7 - 10 minutes.  It is very important to not lift the lid during this standing period; the rice will continue to steam, even though the heat is off. 

To make the dressing, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a pot over medium heat. Cook and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from the heat.
To make the sushi rice, transer the cooked rice to a large, nonreactive bowl (such as one made from glass, ceramic, or wood). Slowly sprinkle the vinegar mixture over the rice while folding and mixing the rice with a wet wooden spoon or spatula. Take care not to cut the grains as you mix or the rice will become mushy. (A simple tip to make the perfect sushi rice is to get rid of moisture quickly by mixing the rice in moving air, such as near a fan or open window.) do not overwork the rice or its texture will be ruined.
Sushi rice is best used immediately. If you cannot use it immediately, keep the rice at room temperature, covered with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out, and use it as soon as possible.