“Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen,
because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing,
or wood carving, or music.”
~ Julia Child
Creativity can be expressed in many forms: art, decor, fashion, music, writing, and of course, food. Just tune in to the Food Network and you will see an entire channel devoted to the art of culinary creativity.
I rarely ever watch TV, but when I do, I enjoy watching the Food Network — even though I’m vegan. I wish the Food Network aired an all-vegetarian/vegan/raw (un)cooking show. I think that would be utterly fabulous!
One certainly doesn’t have to label themselves as vegetarian or vegan or raw in order to enjoy dishes that might be labeled as such.
Like most, I have a handful of favorite foods that I love to both prepare and enjoy. Among this list of my favorite foods is vegan sushi!
What is Sushi?
Sushi is probably one of the most recognized forms of Japanese cuisine throughout the world. Traditionally, it consists of cooked rice seasoned with vinegar which is formed or rolled into bite-sized pieces with fish, seafood, meat, egg, and/or vegetables. If the sushi is prepared and served wrapped or rolled in seaweed, it if usually referred to as a nori roll. The Japanese term for a nori roll is Maki.
Sushi and nori rolls (i.e. maki) can easily be made vegetarian or vegan. Delicious nori rolls can be made with nori (i.e. seaweed), rice, and your choice of vegan fillings, such as cucumber, mushroom, spinach, or avocado. Of the aforementioned ingredients, my favorite fillings for vegan sushi would definitely be avocado. Yum!
But what about vegan raw sushi? Is such a thing even possible?
The answer = A delicious YES! 🙂
There are many reasons why you might be interested in making (and eating!) raw vegan sushi: Perhaps you follow a vegetarian, vegan, or a raw vegan diet, maybe you are simply trying to include more vegetarian and vegan foods into your currently omnivorous way of eating, or maybe you’re trying to lose weight and are looking for nutritious and healthy recipes. Or, perhaps you are interested in foods that are low on the Glycemic Index scale. There are countless other reasons why you may be interested in preparing raw vegan sushi. …As for my personal favorite reason? Easy: It’s delicious! 🙂 And on top of that, I love being creative with food!
Raw Nori Rolls
The main challenge of making a raw version of vegan sushi or nori rolls would be in replacing the rice with some kind of raw replacement or substitute. As such, there are a number of ways to go about making raw nori rolls.
Some recipes for raw nori rolls omit a rice or alternative altogether and instead simply advise you to roll a variety of finely cut fresh veggies into your nori. This is one way to go about preparing raw nori rolls, but a big difference will be that your nori will be dry, and as a result, a little crunchy and chewy. This will also make it more difficult to slice up your nori rolls into bite-sized pieces. But, if you really like nori, then perhaps you’ll like this simple approach.
Otherwise, you’ll likely want to find a raw “rice” to use. Some raw alternatives for rice include a cauliflower-nut “rice”, and there’s also a parsnip “rice”. I put the word rice in quotes here because, obviously, actual rice is not being used, but rather something prepared to imitate rice in some way. I’ve personally never tried the parsnip rice version, but I have tried a cauliflower rice version and I did not really care for it too much; I tried it on more than one occasion and both times it made my tummy pretty grumbly afterward.
A number of other recipes substitute the rice with some form of pâté. There are many different recipes and varieties of raw pâté out there.
When making raw vegan nori rolls, I encourage you to try replacing the rice with different forms of raw “rice” and pâtés, until you find a favorite you really like.
I’m going to share with you a recipe for raw nori rolls using a pâté that I personally quite enjoy. I don’t know about you, but I most enjoy flavors that are typically rated on the strong (and frequently spicy) and flavorful side vs. the mild or bland side. Therefore, I prefer to make a pâté that has a fairly strong flavor.
How To Make Raw Vegan Nori Rolls
You will need:
- Food Processor
- Sharp Knife
- Spatula (or other spreading utensil)
- Sushi rolling mat
- Cutting board (optional)
- Chopsticks (optional)
- 1.5 Cups Raw/Natural Almonds
- 1/4 Cup Peeled Eggplant
- Between 2/3 cup Celery (throw in the leafy part too!)
- 1/2 Cup Yellow Bell Pepper
- 1-2 Button Mushrooms
- 2-3 Green Onions
- 1/2 – 1 Tbsp (i.e. to taste) Fresh Ginger
- 1-2 Cloves Garlic (to personal preference)
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste (optional)
- Herbs — to taste (parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, etc. Try different combination of herbs!)
- Lemon Juice (1 Lemon)
- 1 Tbsp (or more to taste) Tamari / Soy Sauce / Nama Shoyu
- Sea Salt (to taste)
- 1 Tbsp Sesame oil (optional)
This pâté recipe will allow for 4-5 (or possibly more) nori rolls, depending on how thick you spread on the pâté when preparing your rolls. Feel free to double or even triple the recipe, depending on how many you’d like to make. Each nori roll can be quite filling. Additionally, the pâté will keep well in the fridge for quite some time, so if you like, feel free to make lots in advance so that afterward you can whip up some nori rolls in mere minutes! That’s one definite advantage that raw nori rolls have over their rice-based counterparts. 🙂
- Nori (i.e. Seaweed) — You can use nori that is toasted or raw, organic or non-organic… it’s up to you!
- Nori Roll filling
- Pickled Sushi Ginger (optional)
- Wasabi (optional)
- Sesame seeds (optional)
Making the Pâté
1. Prepare the Almonds (Soak and Strain).
It is recommended to first soak the almonds for 8-12 hours, or longer. To do so, simply place the dry almonds in a bowl and cover with filtered water and set it out on your kitchen table or counter. When you soak the almonds, they will absorb quite a bit of water (and some might evaporate overnight if you live in a dry or warm environment), so be sure to have plenty of extra water in your bowl.
Next, strain the almonds once they have soaked for a sufficient length of time. 1 1/2 cups of dry almonds will yield somewhere around 2 – 2 1/2 cups of soaked almonds.
2. Blend the Ingredients in the Food Processor.
If you are doubling up recipe above, it will likely be too much for your food processor to blend effectively. Therefore, I’d recommend blending the ingredients in the portions as listed in the recipe as two (or more) separate batches, and then stirring all the batches together afterward.
First, blend the soaked almonds until you have something like a rough almond paste. (Note that your aim here in NOT to create almond butter.) Second, add in the veggies and blend again. I included ingredients like eggplant and spinach because they are sponge-like in nature and should help absorb a little excess water or liquid, if present. Third, add and blend the remaining ingredients.
3. Be creative!
I highly encourage you to experiment and be creative with the pâté recipe. Experiment with different veggies and herbs. Some people might like lots of garlic, while others might prefer little to no garlic in the recipe. Some might prefer lots of ginger and spice. If you like wasabi, you could even try putting some wasabi directly into the pâté! Heck, why not? I’m personally not a huge wasabi fan (though I know many are), so if you are into that flavor then I’d imagine you’d love this pâté recipe with a hint of wasabi flavor throughout. 🙂
Please Note: Whether or not you are being creative and experimental with the recipe, one thing to be careful of is that you don’t want to make your pâté too wet or soggy. It should have a fairly thick consistency such that you could form it into a patty or ball and it will keep its form, yet it should also be spreadable. If it seems too liquidy you should be able to fix this by blending in some dry almonds to the mixture, or possibly by adding mushroom, since they are like sponges and therefore should, theoretically, absorb some excess liquid.
Choosing your Nori Roll Filling
The ingredients you choose to fill your nori rolls is what will end up in the middle of your roll! Choosing your filling is another opportunity for you to experiment and exercise creativity! You will likely want to choose fillings that compliment the flavor of your pâté.
For example, if you want to be adventurous you can choose fruit as for filling, like mango, pineapple, strawberry and kiwi! It’ll be delicious, but if that’s the way you want to go, you’ll probably NOT want to make your pâté with garlic. (Although garlic and pineapple can compliment each other, last time I checked garlic didn’t go too well with strawberry and kiwi.)
… But while we’re on the vein of fruit in nori rolls, it follows that you could even make dessert nori rolls by making your pâté sweet instead of savory! Replace the pâté veggies with banana and/or apple. Add in a couple dates. Omit the garlic, and replace the savory herbs with spices like cinnamon and cloves and vanilla. … Wow, that sounds good! I’m going to go try this myself! Mmmmm….
Anyway… assuming you are looking for something savory instead of sweet of dessert-like, you’ll likely want to stick with an assortment of veggies as your nori filling. As I mentioned earlier, my favorite is avocado. When I most recently prepared raw vegan nori rolls, I used avocado, cucumber, carrot, red bell pepper, and sprouts as the filling. Sunflower sprouts are especially pretty in nori rolls. Beet can also work quite well, too, and it is especially colorful.
Preparing your Nori Roll Filling
When preparing the filling for your nori roll, I would recommend spicing your ingredients very finely. If you like, you can use a shredder for something like carrot or beet. If you are using a knife, try cutting your veggies into thin but long pieces, the thickness of the width of a match or two.
You can marinade certain veggies for your nori filling, too! Try marinading spinach in a marinade of sesame oil, tamari, and ginger. You could also try marinading shiitake mushrooms! I’m getting hungry just thinking of all the wonderful combos and possibilities… is it time to eat yet?
It’s Nori Time!
Now that we have the pâté and the filling prepared, it’s finally time to incorporate the nori!
Nori refers to dried seaweed that has been pressed into thin sheets. Raw nori does exist, so if you are a raw foodie, then fear not — raw nori sheets are available, although you’ll probably have to go to a store that specializes in organic products in order to find it. Otherwise, many grocery stores carry non-raw / roasted nori sheets.
1. Shiny Down, Ridges Up!
When you look at a sheet of nori, you will find that one side is shiny while the other side has small ridges on it. You’ll want to place the smooth and shiny side down onto your sushi rolling mat with the ridge-side facing up. Place the bottom of the nori sheet in line with the bottom of the rolling mat.
2. Spread ’em, Baby!
Next, it’s time to spread the pâté onto the nori sheet! Spread the pâté with a spatula. You’ll want to keep the top inch or two of the nori clear of any pâté. I’ll explain the reasoning behind that shortly.
3. Fill ‘er Up!
Once you have evenly spread the pâté onto the nori sheet, it’s time to place your filling onto the pâté. You’ll want to place your filling ingredients in a horizontal line across the width of the nori sheet and a bit below the center of the nori sheet and pâté. You won’t need much filling ingredients for each roll — when assembling your rolls you’ll likely be surprised to discover how a little filling goes a long way. If you put in a lot of filling ingredients you’ll likely have difficulty rolling up your roll in the next step. If you are a novice at sushi and nori rolling, I’d recommend to start off by being sparse with your filling ingredients.
Let’s Rock and Roll!
Rolling raw nori rolls can be a little tricky at first. If you’re already experienced in the art of rolling traditional nori rolls — i.e. the kind prepared with rice — please note that you’ll need to be fairly gentle when exerting pressure during the rolling process. You will find that the pâté is much softer than the layer of rice that would otherwise traditionally be spread onto the cooked nori sheet; if you exert too much pressure when rolling, you will squish your roll and it will turn out misshapen and deformed!
It’s a bit difficult to explain how to roll up sushi / nori rolls, but I’ll try my best.
First, take the bottom of the rolling mat and, with just the right amount of pressure, lift it up and *just* over your horizontal line of filling ingredients. Gently roll it little. When you roll the nori upwards (i.e. from the bottom towards the top), you’ll want to simultaneously roll back the sushi mat.
Remember that inch or two of nori that we left uncovered? Well, here’s where you find out why we did that! Take a little water (or tamari, or rice vinegar) and dab it on along the top dry part of the nori sheet until it’s damp. You may notice it start to shrivel up — that’s normal.
After dampening the top inch or so of the nori sheet, continue to gently roll the nori towards the top until it is completely rolled up!
Continue assembling and rolling nori rolls until you’ve made the desired number of rolls. Remember, you don’t have to use up all of the pâté if you don’t want to. Store any leftover pâté in a sealed container and put it in the fridge. It should keep for at least a week, if not longer. When you’re ready to make more nori rolls, just take it out of the fridge and spread it onto a sheet of nori, add some filling, them roll it up! It’s that easy!
Slice and Dice
The next step in preparing your nori roll is slicing it up and turn it into bite sized pieces. I usually cut each roll into six pieces.
You will want to use either a very sharp knife or a serrated knife. I’ve tried both kinds of knives when slicing nori and have personally found they both seem to yield similar results. Just make sure your knife is not dull.
Be very gentle when applying downward pressure when slicing up your nori roll. You will want the cutting action to mainly take place from the movement of your knife back and forth in a sawing motion while simultaneously applying the slightest vertical pressure. When I slice my nori, I will make the first slice in the middle of the roll, dividing it into two equal parts. From there, cut each half into even thirds.
Et.. voila! Your Nori Roll is ready to eat!
The Finishing Touch
There’s nothing holding you back from eating your nori pieces as soon as you finish slicing them. However, if you’re not in a hurry, I’d recommend taking an extra moment to really set the mood and take a moment in plating and presentation.
Nori rolls are traditionally placed on a rectangular plate or platter rather than the typical circular shaped North American plate. If you like, serve your nori rolls with condiments such as organic pickled ginger, wasabi, and tamari (or soy sauce, or nama shoyu). I really like to sprinkle sesame seeds onto each individual piece, too.
Nori rolls are traditionally eaten with chop sticks, but no one is going to judge you if you just treat them as finger food and eat them with your hands. …well, I won’t judge you, anyway.
Nori rolls are great as a snack or even as a full meal.
They are especially yummy when serves with miso soup and salad!
They are also wonderful to serve at parties!
However you decide to enjoy your nori rolls, remember to be creative, and have fun!