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June 5, 2007

Nori (Recipe: vegetable nori rolls) {vegetarian}

When the temperature soars above 90 degrees, as it did last weekend here in Rhode Island, I don't want to cook, but I still want to eat. Welcome to Vegetable Sushi Week, Day Two: the nori.

Nori

If I'd titled this post "Red algae from the Porphyra genus", would you still be reading?

Didn't think so.

In fact, if you told me there was algae in The Perfect Pantry, I'd probably reach for a disinfectant!

Nori -- yes, it's red algae -- is the Japanese name for various edible seaweeds, as well as the food products created from these sea vegetables. Consumption of seaweed in Japan dates back many centuries, but the nori sheets we use today were invented in Tokyo more recently, in the 19th century.

Nori is a farmed product, grown at a depth of approximately 25 feet, maturing in 45 days from seeding. The harvested seaweed is shredded and dried on racks, in much the same way as paper is made. Nori is high in sodium, but also high in anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, calcium, zinc, iodine and fiber.

In the market -- my Asian grocery has a huge selection, but even my local supermarket stocks these -- you'll find nori sheets that are raw or toasted/roasted. Either way, you can bring out the flavor (which is not the strong taste of ocean brine; in fact, there's not much taste at all) by toasting briefly over a gas burner on your stovetop; hold the nori sheet with long tongs, and wave it back and forth over the flame for a minute or two until it is just warmed but still flexible. Toasting also helps the nori remain crisp after it comes into contact with something moist (rice or vegetables). Cut into thin strips, nori makes a lovely and nutritious garnish for soup or cold noodle salads, too.

Like aluminum foil, nori sheets have a shiny side and a matte side, and on both sides there are lines from the drying racks. Use these visual cues when you make sushi rolls (explained in the recipe below), whether you fill them with fish, eggs, twinkies, or the entire state of California.

Vegetable nori rolls

Here's a wonderful online video demonstration of how to make your own nori rolls, and as much as I will try to describe the process to you, I really suggest you watch one of these videos. (After you master the simple nori roll, you might try your hand at some amazing festival sushi, shaped like a flower, or a panda, or Mt. Fuji.) All four Ninecooks cooking groups -- including the Family Group, which even tried peanut butter and jelly sushi -- made nori rolls as part of a bento box menu last spring. If they can do it, you can, too. You will need a bamboo sushi mat (very inexpensive), or some heavy-weight plastic wrap. This recipe is more about method than quantity; make as many or as few rolls as you wish. Each roll makes six pieces of sushi.

Ingredients

1 package nori sheets (10 sheets per package), or more as needed
1 batch prepared sushi rice
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, in a small bowl
Wasabi sauce, wasabi paste, or other condiment of your choice (hoisin, horseradish, hot mustard, etc.)
Assorted cold vegetables, cut into long, thin strips: red pepper, yellow pepper, carrots, cucumber, steamed asparagus, avocado, etc.

Directions

Place the sushi mat on your work surface. Hold one nori sheet with a pair of long tongs, and toast it briefly over the gas burner on your stove (you can skip this step if you're starting with roasted nori). Place the nori sheet shiny side down on the sushi mat, with the lines in the nori aligned with the bamboo slats of the mat.

Dip your fingertips in the bowl of rice vinegar, and take a blob (3-4 tablespoons) of sushi rice. Place the rice in the lower end of the nori (closest to you), and with your fingers, spread it evenly over the lower half of the nori, leaving a half-inch margin on the long side closest to you, and on each end. (This is just like making strudel or a buche de noel.)

Spread a small strip of wasabi sauce (or other condiment) down the middle of the rice. Then lay several strips of vegetables on top of the wasabi sauce.

Now it's time to roll! Starting with the end closest to you, lift the edge of the bamboo mat. Using your fingers to keep the rice and vegetables in place, roll the mat over until the nori meets itself. Lift the top edge of the mat, and press the roll to keep its shape. Using the mat to help you, slowly begin to roll the nori away from you, tucking the roll into shape and pulling the mat out and back towards you at the same time. The moisture in the rice will help the roll stick together. Roll and tuck until you get to the end; if necessary, dab the end with a bit of water to make sure it stays closed.

With the seam side down, take a very sharp, clean knife and slice the nori roll in half. (Wipe the knife clean between each cut.) Then, slice each half into 3 pieces, making six pieces in all. Serve with pickled ginger and your choice of dipping sauce.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

 

Comments

Anyone who makes their own sushi has my complete respect. I don't remember when I first tasted it, but I've been hooked ever since!

I´m beginning to work up a very respectable jealousy for your local Asian market. Here I can find nori, but not much else. I like the cut up kind, though, for sprinkling on noodles.

OK this is just fantastic. I noticed Nori at our supermarket the other day. I put it back on the shelf thinking I need to do a bit more research. Lydia thanks for doing that for me LOL! The recipe sounds great - so I think I will be adding the nori into my cart the next time I'm at the store!

My mom also would brush the nori sheets with a bit of sesame oil before toasting, then salt them. This was often at the table where you could crumble it into foods, or use it to scoop up wads of rice and condiments, a hand rolled burrito/sushi. Hmmm- now I am hungry for sushi!

Thanks for the vegetable nori rolls recipe and the link to the excellent demonstration. I love to make summer rolls with rice paper when the weather warms up, and now I want to try your nori rolls. Thanks for the idea!

Kalyn, I promise you this is so easy to make. Everyone in my cooking groups got the hang of it right away. Please try!

Lobster, let me know if there's anything you'd like, and I'll be happy to shop at the Asian grocery for you (can you tell that I will use any excuse to go there?!).

Meeta, really, maki rolls are easy, and once you make them, you'll discover so many new variations (I wouldn't recommend the peanut butter ones that my family group made -- but they also did some bacon and egg sushi that were delicious).

Callipygia, I love the sushi burrito idea! I'll have to try the sesame and salt combo -- sounds delicious.

Susan, I think these are easier to make than summer rolls, so if you can do the rice paper, you can surely make nori rolls. Have fun!

lol, you're right: titles do make a huge difference! I still would have read though, cause I know you always have fascinating things to say about food. :)

Although the weather here is cold, I am still craving for some nori rolls. This is a wonderful article!

Lydia - I didn't know Nori is red algae...your blog is so informative with precious information...I learn so much from you. :)

LOL! I think Nori is a better title than red algae... ;-)

Paz

Just recently tried vegetable sushi with great success -- I've got some Nori left, so I'm going to go back and try your different vegetable combinations!

Any time I've tried to make my own California rolls I've ended up with tendrils and bits and mess hanging out all sides of the nori... I'm going to follow your method so closely!

Ari, thank you so much!

Anh, I get cravings for nori rolls, too.

RM, thank you -- I learn so much from your blog, too.

Paz, I agree -- didn't for one minute consider titling this "Red algae"!

TW, it's really fun to play once you get the method down. My family cooking group did a great bacon and egg version, by making omelets and cutting them into strips, then rolling it with cooked bacon (sliced lengthwise) and a bit of ketchup instead of wasabi sauce!

Stephanie, that's happened to me, too, usually when I overfill the rolls. I just cut off the weird ends, and nobody is the wiser.

I've got the rice, nori and mat, have been meaning to give it a go far a couple of months now. Hubby is decidedly unkeen to try, I'll tell him it's just red algae! Hee hee.

Seriously though I'm keen to give it a go and vegetable sushi sounds like a good place to start.

Kelly-Jane, I think sometimes when people hear "sushi", they think of squishy raw fish. But a roll of rice with vegetables and something spicy -- well, doesn't that sound delicious?!

Nori is an excellent snack if you have the discipline not to eat the chocolate bar. My Asian market sells very thin toasted sheets pressed with some sort of savory paste between them. I have no idea what they are, but I suspect they are teeming with good health elements.

Susan, must it be either the chocolate bar or the nori??? I've seen those nori "sandwich" things, too -- but I'll stick with chocolate!

Yum! I love nori! I like to make hand rolls and think of them as savory ice cream cones! :):)

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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