I am making grilled salmon for Sunday’s Japanese feast. While I could have served just plain steamed rice to go with the salmon that is not my style. While I am making several pickles to go with dinner, I decided to make vegetable makizushi as well.
The simplest makizushi to make are hosomaki (細巻, “thin rolls”). These maki are small rolls of sushi rice and a single filling wrapped in nori. Futomaki (太巻) are large “fat rolls” with two or more ingredients selected for their complimentary taste and colors. What ingredients you choose is up to your own imagination. Today, I decided to create my own futomaki with pickled cucumber, pickled carrots, and avocado.
Note: Makizushi have many different names depending on their size and filling(s). Since Iam making this futomaki to my own liking Iam not sure what the Japanese would name it. If you have never rolled sushi before this is a good set of directions for getting started.
Sushi rice (Sushi-meshi 鮨飯) is made with short-grained, Japanese rice mixed dressed with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, salt—sushi su. Depending on the cook, there may also be other additions. In Japan, the tradition method for mixing the rice and sauce involves a special wooden tub—a hangiri—a wooden paddle—a shamoji— and a fan—to dry off the rice quickly as you gently mix them together. The real tricks to making sushi rice is to: 1) let it cool before adding the sushi su; 2) do use too much sauce for the amount of rice you have; 3) and do not mash or break the grains of rice as you mix in the sushi su.
Note: If you add sushi su to hot rice the starch in the rice will rapidly and unevenly absorb the sauce. You want the sauce coating the outsides of the grains. If you add too much sushi su you will end up with soggy, not sticky rice. Ideally you want to end up with whole individual grains of slightly sticky and glossy rice.
Nori is basically a paper made our of red algae. It has a standard size (19×21 cm) and usually has 6 scores to guide you in cutting up the role—although you may cut them where ever it pleases you. You usually toast the nori before using—this give it a better flavor and softens it slightly making it less likely to crack while you are rolling. If you are just starting out, you can look for pre-roasted nori. Nori also has a smooth and a rough side. When using nori to make maki you want to lay the sheet down with the rough side up—when you are finished rolling the rough side sticks better when you moisten it.
Karl’s Vegetarian Futomaki
1 Japanese cucumber
1 medium carrot
1 ripe avocado
1½ cups Japanese short grained rice (=about 4 cups cooked rice )
2 Tbs. mirin
2 rice vinegar
½ Tbs. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
5-6 sheets of nori seaweed
Other items needed:
a hangiri: I use a shallow 9-12 inch ceramic casserole
a makisu: a mat woven of bamboo sticks and cotton string
a shamoji: a flat wooden paddle
a small bowl half filled with water
and a very sharp knife
Note: While you may prepare your pickles on the morning of your dinner, it is easier to make them the night before.
1. Rinse and trim the cucumber into an eight and a half inch cylinder.
Tip: You want to make sure to remove the stem end of the cucumber. It contains a bitter compound that will spread to the rest of the pickle spear if you leave it attached. If you have a particularly short cucumber, break off pieces to stretch across the bed of rice.
Note: Sheets of nori are not square, but a rectangle. As you make your maki you want the wider side—8 ½ inches—facing toward you. There are perforations—marking where you are expected to cut your maki roles—these should be pointing toward you when you lay the nori down.
2. Cutting lengthwise, slice the cylinder into eight spears.
3. Put the cucumber spears into a bowl and sprinkle the salt over them.
4. Toss the cucumber to coat the spears with the salt and let them rest for 20-30 minutes.
Tip: The salt will draw off a fair amount of the moisture in the cucumbers that would dilute your pickling sauce.
5. Put the mirin, vinegar, and sugar into a sealable quart plastic bag.
Tip: Seal and shake to dissolve the sugar.
6. Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the cucumber spears and place them in the bag.
7. Press the air out and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Tip: Overnight is better. Flip the bag occasionally to ensure all of the cucumber spears are in contact with the pickling sauce.
Note: While this is too little pickle to use most pickle presses on, I put several bags of different pickles into my press and marinate them together.
8. Peel and slice the carrots into 2-3 inch match sticks.
Tip: A vegetable shredder is very useful to quickly make fine matchsticks of carrot quickly.
9. Put the carrot shreds into a bowl and sprinkle the salt over them.
10. Toss the carrots to coat the spears with the salt and let them rest for 20-30 minutes.
Tip: The salt will draw off a small amount of the moisture from the carrots that would dilute your pickling sauce.
11. Put the mirin, vinegar, and sugar into a sealable quart plastic bag.
Tip: Seal and shake to dissolve the sugar.
12. Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the carrots and place them in the bag.
13. Press the air out and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Note: Do not peel the avocado until you are just about to assemble your maki. Avocado oxidizes and turns brown very quickly after being exposed to the air. While this is not harmful, it is unappealing visually.
14. Several hours before you are ready to make your maki, cook your rice by your preferred method.
Tip: You want your rice to be well cooled, before you add your sushi su. I strongly recommend using a rice steamer.
Note: You want to use slightly less water than you might usually do—by a tablespoon or two— overcooked rice makes for very bad sushi. You do not want your rice to be hard in the center, but you also do not want it soft and mushy.
15. Turn the rice out onto a wide lipped surface.
Tip: I use a shallow 9-12 inch ceramic casserole as my hangiri. Do not put oil on the pan!
Note: You may break up any large clumps of rice to help it cool more quickly, but the hot rice will break easily, so be very gentle.
16. While the rice is cooking put all of the sushi su ingredients into a measuring cup and microwave it for one minute.
Tip: You are not trying to cook the sauce, you only want the liquid warm enough so that the sugar dissolves completely. Cool the sauce completely before using.
Note: I tend to use less salt than many recipes I have read. Some recipes call for as much as a tablespoon of salt for this much rice.
17. Sprinkle the sushi su over the rice and gently “fluff” and “feather” it with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Tip: The cold moistened rice will come separate easily into individual grains—Fluffing means to “Lift and separate.” Feathering is a light cutting motion to separate individual grains of rice. Do not use any mashing or hard stirring motions.
18. Remove the cucumbers and carrots from their bags, squeeze as much of the pickling liquid from them as you can, and lay them out separately.
Tip: You do not want soggy sushi.
19. Cut the avocado in half—top to bottom—and remove the pit.
20. Toast your nori.
21. When you have all of your ingredients ready, arrange your rolling station.
Tip: On the left side place your bowl of sushi rice. In the center have a clean flat surface for your rolling mat. Above the mat, place a bow of water and a plate with your toasted nori on the right hand side place your fillings—the cucumber spears, carrots, and avocado. Also, have a very sharp knife ready to hand.
22. Place a sheet of nori on the rolling mat.
Tip: You want the rough side up and the wider edge toward you.
23. Wet your fingers and place about ¾ of a cup of rice on the lower half of the nori.
24. Work the rice across the lower ⅝ of the sheet of nori.
Tip: You want the rice to cover the seaweed all the way to the lower and side edges and be in a fairly even layer.
Note: Sushi rice is very sticky and you will need to re-wet your fingers frequently.
25. Lay a spear of cucumber across the center of you rice.
26. Pick up some of the shredded carrots and spread them in a narrow strip along side of the cucumber.
27. Lay slices of avocado on top of the carrots and cucumber.
Tip: You may need to trim and add pieces of some of the ingredient to reach all the way across.
Note: Again, you want the ingredients to reach from edge to edge all the way across the rice.
28. Using the bamboo mat to support the rice and nori, fold the rice over the fillings and seal it in with the rice on the other side.
Tip: If necessary roll up the nori a bit more so that you have only and inch of bare nori showing on the side away from you.
Note: When you only have a single solid filling this is a very easy maneuver. When you start adding more ingredients or loose ingredients—like shredded carrots—it becomes more of a challenge. Use your fingers to keep the fillings from slipping out of the roll, as you bring the rice and seaweed over them.
29. Gently squeeze the roll to pack the rice together and to make the roll into an evenly round cylinder.
30. Wet your fingers and dampen the bare nori all along the far edge.
Tip: You want it moist, not soggy.
31. Firmly roll up the remaining nori and place the roll seam side down on a plate.
Tip: The damp rough edge of the nori will quickly seal your roll shut and it will not come undone as you handle the roll further.
32. Continue rolling your futomaki until you run out of ingredients.
33. Taking one roll at a time, carefully slice the long rolls half with a very sharp knife.
Tip: Wet the blade of your knife before cutting, bits of sushi rice will stick firmly to any dry surface.
Note: Even with a wet knife your blade will eventually “gum up” with rice paste. You may need to wash your knife several times before you are finished cutting.
34. Lay the two halves of the roll side by side and make one or two more cuts.
Tip: Most makizushi are about an inch high—when laid cut side up.
Note: I usually cut my rolls into six pieces. There are those who discard the “ugly” end pieces—the very ends of the rolls, where there may be little filling and a raggedy amount of rice. If you remember that I mentioned that the sheets of nori had six scores on them—the intention there is to make five perfect sushi and two half bits at the ends that you throw away.
35. Lay your futomaki cut side up on plate and serve with soy sauce and wasabi.
Tip: Instead of discarding my end pieces, I lay them ragged side down on the plate. Alternately you may add enough fillings so that they stick up out the ends—to serve as a garnish for the smooth cut maki.