John and I have a thing for sushi. Sticky rice, crunchy veggies, spicy seafood, plus that wasabi, ginger soy combo? Umami ftw.
Veggie, california, spicy tuna, fire spitting dragon (is that even a name?) – we eat it all. And while sushi is more of a treat that we save for nights out, it’s also fun to make it at home. But as you know, having one more thing around the house – i.e. a bamboo mat – isn’t really my thing. But you don’t need a mat to make sushi. You just need a few simple ingredients and a towel.
Yep, a towel.
Origins of Sushi
Sushi is a common dish in Japan and in Japanese restaurants around the world. But it’s thought that it may actually date back to the 2nd century BC where it originated from a Chinese dish called narezushi. It’s believed to have then spread to Japan in the 8th century. And by the 18th century, sushi restaurants were wildly popular in Japan.
The following is our inspired, plant-based take on this delicious dish.
How to Make Sushi Without a Mat
Start by making the perfect sticky sushi rice (or try this brown rice version) and chopping up your veggies of choice.
We don’t have access to much sushi-grade seafood in the Midwest, so I most often stick with veggies. But if you live near the coast, get crazy and do the dang thang. (Also, invite me over because I love seafood sushi.)
The towel trick:
A thick towel acts just like a bamboo mat and also wipes up your mess when you’re done: win-win. Because it’s so flexible it allows you to shape and roll the rice effortlessly into a beautiful roll. Oh how I love cutting corners.
This method not only allows you to make a traditional sushi roll, you can also go inside out (rice on the outside, nori on the inside). WHAAAATT?
Simply flatten on the rice, gently flip it over, top with veggies and roll away as usual.
You can even top your rolls with avocado by layering on thin slices of ripe avocado, topping it with plastic wrap and forming it once again with your towel. Slice, remove plastic and “voila.” So easy and a serious “wow” effect. Your friends will be impressed.
So what’s stopping you from making sushi at home? Nada. Now go forth and make rolls my child!
What to Serve with Sushi
- 15-Minute Miso Soup with Greens and Tofu
- Miso-Glazed Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Marinated Peanut Tempeh (7 Ingredients)
- 20-Minute Asian Kale Salad
How to Make Sushi Without a Mat
- 1 cup uncooked white rice (sushi rice if you can get it // or use short-grain)
- 2 cups water
- 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped veggies (carrot, cucumber, red pepper, avocado)
- 4 sheets nori (dried seaweed)
- Soy sauce/tamari, pickled ginger, wasabi (optional // for serving)
- Start by preparing your rice. Rinse rice in a fine mesh strainer until your water runs clear. Then add to a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils reduce heat to low, cover and cook until water is completely absorbed – about 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, add vinegar, sugar and salt to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until sugar and salt are dissolved. Place in a jar or dish and cool in the fridge until rice is ready.
- Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and add the cooled vinegar mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or fork as to not overmix. It will appear wet but will dry up as you lightly stir to release heat. It should be sticky and completely dry once it’s ready.
- In the meantime, prep your veggies by chopping them into thin pieces. If they’re too bulky they won’t allow the sushi to roll well.
- Now it’s time to roll: grab a thick towel and fold it over into a rectangle and place it on a flat surface. Top with plastic wrap, then with a sheet of nori. Using your hands dipped in water (to avoid sticking), pat a very thin layer of rice all over the nori, making sure it’s not too thick or your roll will be all rice and no filling.
- Then, arrange a serving of your veggies or preferred filling in a line at the bottom 3/4 of the rice closest to you (see photo).
- Start to roll the nori and rice over with your fingers, and once the veggies are covered, roll over the plastic wrap and towel, using it to mold and compress the roll (see photo). Continue until it’s all the way rolled up.
- Slice with a sharp knife and set aside.
- To make the inside out roll, follow this awesome tutorial. See photos for how to apply a layer of avocado on the outside.
- Serve immediately with pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi.