Sushi Rolled in Laver

Maki-zushi

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Makes 8 rolls to serve

    4–6

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Appears in

These thin rolls of sushi, made with a variety of fillings, are light and delicate. Here are two popular vegetarian versions: one contains strips of sweet braised gourd (nori maki), the other crisp cucumber slices garnished with sesame and fiery horseradish (kappa maki). Good in a lunchbox by themselves or with sushi-stuffed pillows, they could be served for dinner, too, with Salt-Grilled Fish and blocks of Thick Sweet Omelet. Maki-zushi rolls can also be an indoor treat served with hot miso soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked, still warm rice (made from 1 cup raw rice according to master recipe)
  • tablespoons sushi su (seasoned vinegar)

Gourd strip filling (nori maki)

  • 8 six- or seven-inch strips kanpyō (dried gourd)
  • ½ cup dashi (Basic Soup Stock)
  • Scant 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • teaspoons mirin (syrupy rice wine)

Cucumber filling (kappa maki)

  • ½ tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • ½ small unwaxed cucumber
  • ¼ teaspoon wasabi (fiery green horseradish)
  • 4 sheets Asakusa nori (dark dried laver)

Garnish

  • ¼ cup béni shōga (red pickled ginger) and/or amazu shōga (pink pickled ginger)

Method

Sprinkle the rice with the seasoned vinegar and toss it gently with a wooden spoon while fanning with a fan or stiff piece of cardboard. This helps cool the rice to room temperature while avoiding condensation from the steam. Dip your hands in a bowl of acidulated water (1–1½ cups cold wąter and 1–2 tablespoons rice vinegar) and form the rice into 8 small balls. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Soak the dried gourd strips in warm water to cover for about 10 minutes. In fresh boiling water, blanch the gourd strips for 2–3 minutes and drain them. Rinse under running cold water with scrubbing motions and squeeze dry. In a small saucepan, combine the soup stock, soy sauce, sugar and syrupy rice wine. Stirring, bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the gourd strips. Simmer for 12–15 minutes or until nearly all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let the braised gourd cool to room temperature.

Dry roast the sesame seeds until golden (details) and set them aside in a small bowl. Slice the cucumber diagonally and then lengthwise to make julienne strips. If using powdered horseradish mix ¼ teaspoon of the powder with ⅛ teaspoon cold water. Mix thoroughly, cover with a cloth and let it stand for 5–6 minutes. If using horseradish paste from a tube, squeeze out ¼ inch into a deep dish and cover it with a cloth until ready to use.

Just before making the sushi, dry roast the laver, one sheet at a time (details). Cut each sheet in half, yielding 8 pieces approximately 4 by 7 inches each.

You will need a bamboo mat called a sudaré to roll the sushi. Place a single piece of laver on your sudaré. Then dip your hands in the acidulated water to prevent the rice from sticking to them, and take one of the 8 rice balls and spread it over two-thirds of the laver (1). Lay 2 strips of braised gourd horizontally across the middle of the rice (2). Lift up the edge of the sudaré closest to you and flip it over the filling (3, 4, 5). Press down firmly and continue to roll the cylinder of sushi away from you (6, 7). Remove the first rolled sushi to a dry, flat surface and make three more rolls in the same way, using the remaining braised gourd.

Now make the cucumber-filled sushi. Lay a sheet of laver on your bamboo mat and with damp hands spread one ball of rice evenly over two-thirds of it. Using the tip of your finger, paint a horizontal line across the middle of the rice with one-quarter of the horseradish. Arrange one-fourth of the cucumber slices over the horseradish line and sprinkle with one-fourth of the sesame seeds. Again, lift the edge of the bamboo mat closest to you up and over the filling. Press down firmly to seal and continue to roll the cylinder of sushi away from you. Remove this roll and make three more just like it with the remaining ingredients. Cut each roll of sushi into 6 pieces, using a very sharp wet knife. Insert the tip of the knife first, then, pushing down and away from you, continue to cut, using the base of the blade. Do not saw back and forth.

Arrange the sushi pieces, some standing, others lying on their sides, on a large serving platter, and decorate with pickled ginger. Serve at room temperature. This dish may be made several hours in advance and kept in a cool spot. Cover loosely with wax paper. Do not refrigerate it, though, as the laver becomes soggy and the rice unpleasantly hard.

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