Why brown rice? Well, because although I like sushi, it’s always bothered me that it’s mostly made with white rice, which just isn’t that healthy. Then one day I saw brown rice sushi in Waitrose and thought, aha, so you can have a healthier version of sushi. Through a bit of trial and error and some swearing, I have worked out how to make this brown rice sushi, and it’s not actually that hard.
The are two tricks to making brown rice sushi rolls and they are to make the rice sticky enough to hold together and to roll firmly and tightly. I used rice which I bought in Planet Organic labelled as brown risotto rice but I believe any short grain brown rice would work. I’ve yet to try it with brown Basmati rice but somehow I just don’t think it would stick together.
Before you start making the sushi rolls you need to get everything assembled along with a bowl of water for dipping your fingers in. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
I’ll start with the method and give ingredients last. Cook the rice in the usual way, i.e. a 2:1 ratio. When the rice is just cooked that’s when you get in there with your vinegar, soy sauce etc* and start turning it over and over with a wooden spoon or spatula, mixing the flavours thoroughly through the rice but also getting the rice to release it’s starch and become sticky. This is what will ensure the sushi comes together and holds together. Once the rice is feeling nice and gluey put the lid back on and allow it to cool completely. While you’re waiting, chop up or otherwise prepare your fillings and lay them out.
Place one square of nori on your rolling mat, shiny side down. Use a quarter of the rice and spread it out on the two thirds of the square nearest to your body. Wet your fingers to stop the rice sticking to them and don’t take the rice right to the very edges, leave a small gap instead. Be patient and re-wet your fingers if you have to. Try to get the rice in a nice, even layer as this will help when you come to roll it up. Then place a small selection of your fillings slightly off centre – a tad nearer to you than not – and prepare to roll!
This may take a bit of practice or you may get it straight off but I’ll do my best to describe how it’s done (by the way, if you can make a decent roll up it’s the same principle). Pick up the end of the rolling mat nearest to you. Your thumbs should be behind the mat and all your fingers should be free to tuck and guide and tighten the sushi roll. Do it slowly, you can’t rush this – tuck everything under at the end nearest to you and start to take your end of the rolling mat over. Keep it tight against the roll. Apply enough pressure with your thumbs to make the roll tight but not so much pressure that you burst the nori. Keep tucking in as you go and gathering up the slack of mat with your thumbs. Get your head right over the mat and keep an eye on what’s going on so you can see if anything is escaping or it’s not rolling evenly.
When you’re about to come to the end, wet your fingers and run them along the far edge of the nori to seal the roll. Once it’s rolled you may find it’s not completely round but that’s fine because you can use the mat to gently reshape. You will find the roll is surprisingly sturdy. There will be a section at each end that is not filled properly and can’t really be served. This is inevitable, but the good news is, those ends are yours; chef’s perk. To cut the rolls into slices you will need an extremely sharp knife which needs to be wet so there’s a lot of wiping and re-wetting to do but it’s worth it. Serve with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger.
*Most authentic recipes stipulate using Mirin, but it’s not always available (and it’s quite pricey). Mirin is basically sugary Saki, so the effect can be replicated with the substitutes I’ve chosen here. By all means use 5 tbsp Mirin if you have it, or flavour the rice as best you can with what you have. It’s the perennial salty/sweet/sharp combination, characteristic of so many cuisines, you’re aiming for. Or, in other words, just make rice taste nice.
1 cup short grain brown rice
2 cups water
1 tbs sugar dissolved in 5 tbsps rice wine vinegar (or failing that cider vinegar)
2 tbps soy
4 sheets nori (seaweed) – available from Chinese supermarkets or online
Fillings of your choice
Soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi to serve.