Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shortcut Japanese: Miso and Rolls

Disclaimer: What I'm about to do is probably ten kinds of incorrect.  There are correct ways of making sushi rolls but I don't know them.  Yet it works and if you're fiending for a bit of yummy goodness without a trip to a restaurant then read on....
I may have said somewhere that I'm part Japanese.  No?  Oh, well, it's not really relevant to much so that's probably why I neglected to mention it.   Anyway, my father immigrated here with his parents when he was 16 and his influence is likely why I consider things such as soy sauce and soba household staples.  Since the "oriental" section of the local grocery stores is only about two feet of shelves, once in awhile I treat myself and make a trip to the closest Asian Grocery.  To be perfectly honest, I haven't the foggiest idea what the package labels say and there are a bunch of foods that I don't know the English word for--I just buy what I've always seen in my Grandmother's pantry.  Maybe not the most informed shopping, but if it's good enough for Grandma, then its good enough for me.

So, today was the big trip.  Several grocery bags and a "wow, that's a lot" comment from the store clerk later I trundled home with my bags full of goodies with plans to make miso and sushi rolls for dinner.  Then realized I forgot avocado and green onions and ran back out.  Of course, now I'm standing here getting ready to make dinner and realize I probably should've picked up a bamboo mat too while I was out.  Oh well, I've done without one for this long (real chefs go ahead and shake your heads sadly at me, it's OK, I really am a disgrace) so another day isn't going to hurt anything.

Oops, yeah, another note--I do shortcuts.  Yeah, I could totally go ahead and buy everything I'm supposed to have, but as I'm the only one who eats it it would just be a waste.

First things first--the miso.  Here is a big old ugly daikon which is a type of radish.  I kid you not when I tell you it was the smallest one they had at the farmer's market.  Thankfully I really like daikon. One this size would probably make 8 or more servings of miso depending on how much you like it (for me it'll probably be about 4, I LOVE the stuff).  I julienned about a cup's worth and am cooking it in two cups of boiling water for 20 minutes.
Since I'm cheating I'm just going to add the miso mix and will be done.  However, if you're not cheating add a packet of dashi (stock) to the cooking water or use an equivalent amount of the liquid stuff.  If you happen to have miso paste, when the daikon is done just add three tablespoons of the paste, 1/2 package (diced) of tofu, 1 finely chopped scallion, and a half cup of wakame (curly seaweed) then cook another minute or two before serving.
I know, I know, it's ridiculously easy so why bother with the shortcut, but seriously one of those tubs of paste, even the small one, makes gallons of miso and that makes no sense around here.  Anyway, here it is, ready to eat.
Next comes the rolls.  I only use one brand of rice which is the same brand I grew up with.  Go ahead, laugh at my mini rice pot.  That's another one of those things I keep promising myself I'll upgrade but since I only make one cup at a time, again its just not worth it.

To make vinegared rice, heat 8 tsp of rice vinegar to just below boiling.  Then remove it from the heat and stir in 4 tsp of sugar.  Keep stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Then, pour it over the nice hot, fresh rice (it was 1 cup uncooked worth) and stir until evenly coated.  You'll notice that the rice now looks "shiny."  You also probably notice the brown bits...again, not the world's fanciest rice cooker and it tends to scorch the bottom bits.
Now here's the fun part--arts and crafts time!!  I know that rolls all have their special restaurant names but why do you have to do that at home?  I got all sorts of yummy stuff--cucumber, avocado, roe, tuna, crab, pickled radish, wasabi paste, green onion, made some scrambled egg and sliced it all up.

Here, this is where I will be picky for just a little bit--you can't just go and get any old tuna like a slab from the fish area of the grocery store.  If you are eating it raw please visit a specialty store and get sushi-grade tuna so you don't get sick and die.  OK?  Thanks.

BTW, you don't have to go raw either. Cooked shrimp, broiled eel, crab stick like I used, heck--even BBQ chicken--all taste great in rolls without the whole possibility of getting sick thing.
Anyway, spread a thin layer of rice over a piece of Sushi Nori--or basically a flat sheet of dried roasted seaweed.  Make sure to leave a border on the long sides.  Then, just lay out the ingredients of your choice and roll it up.  It's really that simple--treat the roll like a sleeping bag and firmly (being careful to not tear the seaweed) but evenly roll the whole thing up.  Dampen the inside of the outside edge of seaweed slightly with a bit of water to seal the edges.  Using a very sharp knife slice the roll evenly and you're done.  I personally like the rolls dipped in a very little bit of soy sauce with a lot of wasabi (mmmm, sinus clearing) with just a bit of pickled ginger.  But how you serve it really is up to you.

Admittedly I probably did a thousand things wrong. But once the rice is cooked its fairly quick and simple to make and its oh-so-open to doing whatever you want with it.  Like mayo?  Use it.  Like carrots?  Sure, throw those in too.  Have some leftover pork from last night?  Why not?  What really matters is that you like it and its really fun to make.  Ain't it purdy?

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