Friday, December 6, 2013

Smoky Tofu Veggie Sushi

I dedicate this post to stepping out of your comfort zone. Trying new things. Risk taking. Yeah, all that good stuff.

I don't want to get overly wishy washy, but let me get into this just a little bit. Some of you who read this blog regularly probably know how much I love yoga. I practice regularly. The hot kind, which can be, uh...challenging, to put it lightly. So, I have this Thursday morning teacher who kind of beats my ass. I say that in the nicest way, but seriously, she will regularly instruct the class to do seemingly impossible tasks. "You've been lunging on your right leg in various poses for fifteen minutes? Okay, now float up your left leg and balance on than burning right leg." She repeatedly reminds us of this: "Why not? What's the worst that can happen? You fall out. So what?" I usually do fall out. "So what?" I remind myself.

I'm trying to carry that philosophy with me as I go through some big changes in my life. It was with that in mind that I decided to start my own law practice. I mentioned to you guys a while ago that I was laid off from my job. Confused as to what to do for a short while, and torn as to whether I could manage to go out on my own, I reminded myself of that "so what" mantra. Lot's of people tell me I don't seem like the lawyer type, and in particular, not the run-my-own practice lawyer type. But that's why it all makes sense: I got here by stepping out of my comfort zone. So, I keep on moving further out to see where it takes me. I have a law firm. That's so weird. But why not? My only dependents are a couple of kitties. I live a modest lifestyle, so indeed, why on earth not?

What, oh what, does any of this have to do with sushi? Well, homemade sushi has long been something way out of my comfort zone. I tried making it a couple of times, perhaps ten or so years ago. It turned out terrible. Between that experience and making this batch, which turned out awesome, I've learned a few keys to making good sushi: (1) Good quality nori. I remember the nori from my first batch being kind of tough. Didn't realize that could be a factor. I wish I could elaborate more on what constitutes good quality nori, but the only indicators that I'm aware of are dark color and crispness. I think you should be okay with most types you can buy at a good Asian market or Whole Foods type place, but check the expiration. My suspicion is that the nori from my first batch sat on the shelf for a while. (2) Rice. There's a delicate balance going on with the rice and water ratio here. You need enough water to get your rice good and sticky, but too much and you'll end up with mush. (3) Cutlery. This is one of those big deal things I never really thought about until I could afford to buy my own stuff. When I first tried making sushi, I probably used some (dull) hand me down knives that left me with raggedy-edged sushi chunks, instead of the beautiful crisp-cut little wheels I'd been hoping for, and which I did get this time by using a brand new super sharp knife. (4) Proper instruction on rolling. Thanks YouTube, for helping me to learn to properly roll both standard and inside out sushi rolls in a matter of minutes. I've linked to the videos that taught me below.

I actually have this recipe to thank for my newly acquired sushi-making courage. I got all excited when I saw it because it looked so delicious and required no rolling! It was delicious, in case you were wondering. Make it. Since I had to go out and buy some sushi rice and fixings, I figured, why not throw some nori into the cart and give it a go? What's the worst that can happen?

This particular variety of sushi was inspired by a roll that my boyfriend and I had last year while driving through Massachusetts. It had just the smoky tofu as a filling, no veggies. It was delicious nonetheless, so delicious that it came up repeatedly in conversation during the last year. I had to try to recreate it. I don't know if or when we'll get back to that Japanese place in Massachusetts. I decided a little veggie crunch would go great with the tofu. I was right. This stuff was delicious. If you're nervous about rolling your own sushi, I encourage you to give it a shot. Step out of your comfort zone. What's the worst that can happen? Take out is always there to bail you out, but I don't think you'll need it.

Smoky Tofu Veggie Sushi

Makes 2 rolls (about eight pieces each)

For the rice:

2/3 cup sushi rice
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. water
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. rice vinegar

For the smoky tofu:

1/4 lb. extra firm tofu
1 tsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free)
1/2 tsp. rice vinegar

Everything else:

2 sheets of nori
1/2 carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
about 20 chives
toasted sesame seeds, wasabi, soy sauce or tamari, pickled ginger, for serving

Press your tofu for at least 15-20 minutes. You can let this happen while you prepare your rice.

Rinse rice under cold running water for 1-2 minutes. Place in small saucepan with other rice ingredients and heat to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit for another 10 minutes, covered.

While rice is sitting, mix your tofu marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Slice tofu into thin strips, about 1/4 inch should work, then add the strips to the bowl and toss to coat. You should have enough to just coat all of your strips. Heat nonstick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add tofu strips and cook on each side until they begin to brown. (It doesn't have to be perfect, they're gonna be all rolled up in the sushi where nobody can see.) Be gentle when turning these little strips. Well seasoned cast iron is your friend here.

Now, you're all ready to roll your sushi. You have two options. I chose to do one roll of each. Rather than going through the detailed explanations on how to do this, which failed me ten years ago, I'm going to link you to the videos that led to some successful sushi rolls this time around.

For makizushi, or sushi with your nori on the outside, check out this video. (I didn't find the plastic wrap necessary for this roll.)

For uramaki, or an inside out roll, check out this video.

For either version, use your tofu, carrot sticks and chives as your fillings. Sprinkle your finished rolls with toasted sesame seeds, and serve with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger.


  1. I'd say this is more like Kimbap!! A korean dish that uses similar ingredients (unlike sushi, most ingredients are cooked) along with sesame seeds <3

    1. I just had to google Kimbap, but you're right! I've had kimbap before, just didn't know the name. Gives me a good excuse to eat this alongside some kimchi :)