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Monday, February 6, 2023

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DIY Sushi? Yes, You Can!

I love going out for Japanese food. It’s a special treat reserved for rare moments when my husband and I are “kid-free” and get to meet for lunch. We both love sushi, but have different preferences. I personally don’t like raw fish, so I’ll opt for my favorites that include shrimp, crab, or vegetables. The tempura asparagus roll is a revelation! My husband will literally eat anything, even if he doesn’t understand which rolls he is ordering (which, he can actually no longer do since finding out he is allergic to shellfish)! Sushi is one of those things that seem worth paying more for, because it’s just so amazingly good. I mean – sushi chefs train for like ten years! I’ll agree that sushi is a treat worth splurging on occasionally. I’m never going to be a master sushi chef in this lifetime, and the caliber of ingredients at great sushi establishments can be deliciously unmatched.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to attempt to make your own sushi rolls at home! It took me a long time to try this myself, probably because I thought it was going to be harder than it was. But attempting to replicate restaurants meals at home is sort of my thing. Once I gave it a try, I could have smacked myself for not doing it sooner! There are plenty of variations you can play around with, and it’s honestly not that difficult! DIY sushi satisfies my cravings for Japanese cuisine until I’m able to enjoy a nice meal out, and it is super healthy. And most importantly to me, it’s sooooo much cheaper than buying. You might be thinking that the taste can’t live up to what you’d order at a restaurant or sushi bar, but I’m telling you – once you drizzle a bit of soy sauce over the rolls, and top with some wasabi and a slice of pickled ginger (yes, all available in your local international aisle!), it seriously tastes just as good.

Today I’ll share my way of making a simple vegetarian take on a California roll using beets. Beets happen to be one of my favorite veggies and they are great here in a fun way to eat your rainbow. If you think you’re not into beets, please give them a try like this! The fragrant and oceanic taste of the other sushi ingredients prevails – you’ll hardly know you’re eating such a healthy vegetable. You can use this method for anything, swapping out the beets for crab or another protein or fish of your choice! Don’t be scared – after all, they don’t have to turn out perfectly and your kitchen is a wonderful place to experiment and embrace mistakes! Give it a try!

1) Wrap beets in foil and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes or so. To test if beets are cooked through completely, stick a metal skewer or knife inside. The beets are done once the skewer or knife goes through completely and smoothly. If not using beets, skip to Step 4.

2) Let the beets cool. Then, peel the outer layer of skin off. You’ll want to use a plastic cutting board for this, as the juice tends to stain wooden ones. Wash your hands thoroughly right after to wash the juices off!

3) Cut the beets into large matchstick slices. Stick in fridge and cool completely.

4) The biggest tip I can give you when it comes to DIY sushi is to have your work station ready to go with everything you’ll need! In addition to the beets, you’ll need nori sheets, avocado and cucumber slices, plastic wrap, a bamboo sushi roller, and cold rice. You’ll also need a dish filled with water. You can find nori sheets and most likely the bamboo roller in the international/Asian aisle of most supermarkets. As far as the rice, I personally like to use jasmine rice, which is the right texture but more affordable than other types of sushi rice. You can honestly use anything you’d like!

5) Place a piece of plastic wrap on top the bamboo roller. This will prevent the rice from sticking to it. Carefully place one nori sheet on top on plastic wrap.

6) To spread the rice, dip your fingers in the bowl of water, then use your hands to scoop some rice and lay on top of the nori.

7) Continue to wet your fingers as needed as you spread the rice into a thin layer on the nori. Wet fingers will prevent the rice from sticking too much on your skin. This tip has been a game changer for me!

8) Carefully lift the nori sheet with one hand and flip it over so that the rice side is down. Line the beets (or whatever else you’ve chosen), cucumber, and avocado slices in a thin layer toward the bottom of the nori. Don’t overstuff!

9) Begin rolling the bamboo roller tightly and slowly, squeezing with one hand as you go.

10) Every inch or so, carefully unroll a bit to remove the plastic wrap, then continue the rolling motion. Some ingredients will smoosh out on both sides; that is OK!

11) Using a large serrated knife, cut your sushi roll into slices.

What I love so much about making my own sushi rolls is that it’s a chance to treat myself to something that feels so special, yet it still fits into my frugal budget. Buying a package of nori sheets, a big bag of sushi or jasmine rice, pickled ginger, and wasabi is a great investment because all items last a long time – perfect for all the experimenting you can do when trying your own sushi at home. Good luck!

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Debra Caffrey
Debra Caffrey
Debra Caffrey is the writer/editor of the Education and Infant & Pregnancy e-newsletters for Fredericksburg Parent and Family. She also writes the monthly Practical Pantry column, sharing her recipes and tips on being a home cook, grocery shopping, and smart meal planning. Debra is the proud mother of an almost-teenage son. When she's not writing, cooking, or parenting, Debra enjoys working out, yoga, running, hiking, traveling, and reading.

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