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Tofu Sushi (a.k.a. “Pinwheels of Death”)

on May 10, 2012

We have two great sushi restaurants here in town but it’s not always convenient or economical so I’ve resorted to, once in a while, making it myself when the craving hits. I’m far from an expert and I don’t do anything fancy – it’s just a good, standard recipe using ingredients that I like (I think Fred would rather poke his eye out with a sharp stick than eat sushi so he gets hot dogs and potato salad for dinner. Ah, yes. All is well in his kingdom again, now that he knows he doesn’t have to eat…”the pinwheels of death.”  Have I mentioned he can be a little dramatic at times?).

I’ll give you the list of ingredients first and then we’ll dive into all the details…

RICE – I use sushi rice.  I also put a ‘sauce‘ on it consisting of rice vinegar (something I could drink straight from the bottle, given the chance), sugar, and salt. Recipe below.

BAKED TOFU – I make my own using fresh tofu, sliced about 1/3″ thick. I lay the sliced tofu in a pan (with sides) and pour soy sauce (I use “low sodium” – like it makes a difference?) over all of it and bake it about 30 minutes at 350F, flipping it once, halfway through the cook time. Once it’s cool enough to work with I cut it, lengthwise into strips, about 1/4″ thick. You can also buy it already marinated and ready to go. There are several different flavors available. If you choose the ‘packaged in water,’ make sure to drain it really well and use the “extra firm.”

CARROTS & AVOCADO I cut these into (appx.) 1/4″ strips as well (it should all make sense if you just keep reading. If you don’t, then you’re on your own…but, at least, look at the pictures, even though some are a bit blurry. Hey, it’s not easy trying to snap photos with fingers covered in sticky rice and avocado slime). Cucumber is also very good in this, I just don’t have any at the moment.  

Of course you can put into your sushi whatever you want.  This is just a combination that I like.

NORI – this is the seaweed wrapper for the outside. I get these at my local store in the Asian food section.

EXTRAS – Pickled Ginger and Wasabi Mustard to go on top and Soy Sauce to dip it in.

Okay. Off we go…

We’re going to make 2 sushi rolls with this recipe. Double or triple it, if you want, but I don’t recommend more than that at a time because, once the rice cools, it’s like glue and very difficult to work with.

<- Start the rice. Cook 1 cup of rice to 1-1/2 cups water (or as much water as the manufacturer recommends to go with 1 cup of rice) and cook per the package directions. As soon as this is going, start the sauce.

  • 4 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons White Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Salt

> Mix these together in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved. This may take a few minutes. When that’s done, set it aside and cut up your tofu and vegetables as instructed above. Set them aside.

<- When the rice is done, using a non-metal spoon, spoon it into a non-metal bowl (glass, wood, etc.). I’ve always been told never to use any metal when making the sushi rice. I don’t know if it’s a chemical reaction or just a wives tale, I just do what I’m told here (Fred would like to know how they do this as it doesn’t work this way for him…).

Slowly pour the sauce over the rice, folding it, not stirring it, as you go. The rice may seem a little loose but, remember, it’s still warm. When it starts to cool the starches will thicken up and it’ll come together.

-> I use a piece of plastic wrap between the seaweed wrapper and the bamboo sushi mat (note: if you have no sushi mat I’ve seen people, very successfully, use  thin, firm magazines instead). I use the plastic wrap for two reasons: 1). It keeps the sushi mat clean (you can even tape the plastic to the back of the sushi mat if you find it easier to work with) and 2). I like cold sushi so I use the plastic to wrap the roll in to refrigerate it for a couple of hours). Of course, the plastic wrap is not necessary if you’re going to eat it right away and/or don’t mind cleaning the mat. 

 <- There are two sides to the seaweed wrapper. A shiny side and a not so shiny side. Put the not so shiny side up because it will help ‘grab’ onto the rice better.

-> Spoon 1/2 of the rice onto the seaweed wrapper (remember, this is making 2 rolls). You’ll need to spread this out, evenly, either by hand, if you’re feeling adventurous (dip your fingers into a little water first – the rice is sticky), or use the back of the spoon you used to mix the rice and sauce with. Make sure to leave about 1″ at the top. This will be where you end the rolling and some rice usually gets pushed up as you go.  This will prevent it from squishing out.

<-  When the rice is evenly distributed, place the tofu and vegetable slices, about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom, lengthwise across the rice. This is where the center of the roll will be.

Next is the rolling itself. This is, probably, the most difficult part out of all of this — and it’s not that hard. It just takes a bit of practice. The sushi mat is designed as a “guide” to make sure the roll wraps evenly and as an “aid” to help you move all those little grains of rice at the same time. 

-> Pick up the side, closest to you (and you see, in the pictures, how the mat is laid out with the bamboo running horizontally? This is really important for this to work…but, if you do manage to, successfully, do it the other way, I’m terribly impressed…send photos). You want to gently fold the end over the tofu/veggies, jelly roll style, and tuck it down under them, keeping the mat (and plastic, if you use it) out of the way.

<- Here’s a peek at what it looks like when it gets going. You can see how the edge is tucking down and under, creating a natural direction for it to go. 

 -> Then, once you get to the end, with the mat around the roll you want to apply a little pressure. Not so much that anything shoots out the sides, just enough to compact it all to keep it in place when you’re cutting it. (You’ll note my carrots and tofu were a bit longer than the roll — I just poked them back in before I wrapped the roll in plastic. Worked fine).

<- If you’re using the plastic to store it in the refrigerator, just twist the ends and tuck them under. Now you’re ready to do the next one. Just follow the directions as above.  

-> When you’re ready to cut them, take one of the rolls, and using a sharp knife, cut it in half. Then cut the halves in half.  And then cut the quarters in half.  Then do the other roll the same way. You will end up with 16 even, beautiful pieces of sushi (8 per roll), each one being a delicious, large bite. I like mine topped with a bit of Wasabi mustard and pickled ginger, then dipped in a tiny bit of soy sauce.  ~Tanoshimu!~








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