Alisa Cooks: Alisa Fleming ~ Sushi became my "favorite meal" many years ago when living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was fortunate enough to have a boss from the Philippines and a colleague from China who loved to take me out to eat. And they were fortunate enough to have a guinea pig who would pretty much eat anything they suggested. You could say I have an somewhat adventurous palate, particularly with Asian cuisine, and I didn't even hesitate when they first suggested we go out for sushi (and this was in the pre-trendy sushi era).
But it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized I could enjoy the flavors of sushi at home. Sure, you may not be game on serving raw fish in your own kitchen, but you can enjoy cooked and even vegetarian / vegan fillings while still getting that sushi vibe. To me, it is all about the seaweed wrap, sushi rice, a little wasabi, some soy sauce … and do not forget those avocados!
Below is my how-to on making quick and easy hand rolls for a light lunch or dinner (perfect in the spring and summer months!). The filling recipe I use is a shrimp version of spicy California rolls, though you can easily use crab (or krab) instead, or even opt for a vegan filling like tempeh or the spicy tofu recipe that I include below.
Now this is more of an "un-recipe," if you will. The actual procedure and ingredient amounts are very flexible, since the idea is to be able to make these handrolls on the fly for a quick and nutritious meal …
Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Hand Rolls (Un-Recipe – see below for a favorite vegan / vegetarian option)
This recipe is Dairy-Free and Nut-Free, but includes options to keep it Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, and/or Vegan.
- Rice, Brown or White (see rice preparation tips below)
- Shrimp (can sub crab or krab – but check ingredients on imitation crab if you have free-from needs; some brands contain gluten, soy, or even milk (yep, no joke))
- Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (yes, they have it at regular grocery stores! I have read that the standard "rooster" brand is gluten-free as confirmed by the company, but you can also try this one if you are nervous)
- Mayo, regular or vegan (I use Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise)
- Green Onions, diced (optional, I didn't have any for the hand rolls made in these pics)
- Nori Sheets (these are your seaweed wraps – most grocery stores have these too, but they are really cheap online – I buy them from Amazon in quantity – bought Roland brand, but there are many)
- Avocado Slices
- Wheat-Free Tamari (for gluten-free) or Soy Sauce
Rice: I love brown rice, but the husband loves white, so I compromise sometimes. To make the best sushi rice, make the rice fresh, and while it is still hot, add in rice vinegar (I use a couple teaspoons per cup of rice) and gently stir the rice for about a minute, it will start to get sticky. See here for an official sushi rice recipe (they often add sugar and salt, but I'm too lazy and also think, why add more salt and sugar? Okay, it is a little bit better done that way, but back to the lazy excuse). Do not try to just reheat leftover rice for this, it will not work. But, you have two options if you want to use leftover rice (which is what I used in these hand rolls). First, add just a wee bit of water to the rice (to dampen), cover, and microwave it for about a minute, just to re-steam it a bit. You can use it as is at this point (it won't be sticky, but it will be rejuvinated), or do like I do and add a little of the mayo to it to help it stay together.
Shrimp: First, I go tothe fridge and hope that my husband has peeled and deveined the shrimp. Score! He had. I fired it in a pan over medium heat (non-stick pan, so just a wee bit of coconut oil to cook) and cook it for just a few minutes per side (you want it just cooked through and still crisp-tender). Allow the shrimp to cool for a few minutes, dice it, and toss it in a bowl. Add the sriracha and mayo to taste. I literally squirt in the hot sauce, add just enough mayo for the sauciness I want, and taste test, adding more hot sauce if desired. If you have green onions, stir those in now.
Vegan Options: Sub the shrimp with veggies (cucumber, carrots, etc.) or tempeh for a little meatiness. Or, try my Spicy Tofu-Avocado Handroll Filling. It received raves (online and in person!) from the lovely Sea at Book of Yum.
Hand Rolls: Now, you can make long rolls, but hand rolls are a good quick cheat, especially if your rice isn't as sticky as you would like it. Cut some nori sheets in half, and lay each one out on the clean counter or cutting board. With wet fingers (I keep a little bowl of water right by), press the rice out onto the left side of the nori sheets (covering only about 1/3 of the sheet – you will only use a couple tablespoons or so of rice per hand roll). Top with 1 avocado slice in a diagonal manner (top of the slice pointing to the top left of the nori sheet). Top with some of the shrimp mixture (if you get overzealous, you may overstuff, so go light at first). It should look somewhat like this:
Now starting with the lower left corner, roll the handroll, pressing firmly to make sure it is all in there. Getting the nori to stick to itself at the end of the roll doesn't always happen for me. I wet the seaweed a bit to help the cohesiveness, but I'm eating it, not trying to win styling awards, so I'm never a perfectionist.
Serve with tamari or soy sauce … and in my case, a big side of steamed broccoli.
Article, recipes, and photos by Alisa Fleming, author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook and founder of GoDairyFree.org.