Maki sushi is one of the staples in my house. I make sure I always have nori seaweed sheets, Japanese rice is my recent addiction, so I never run out of it, so I season it and then simply fill the rolls with whatever I find in the fridge. They make a perfect lunch, dinner, afternoon tea snack, they are great served at a party or at a picnic. Even though it is worldwide known the rolls should be freshly prepared, I love having the leftover maki for breakfast, taken straight out of the fridge and dipped in soy sauce (I know my Japanese friends will be outraged reading it, but I don’t even mind the chewy seaweed and hard rice). Apart from miso soup this is also the most soothing hangover morning meal I know. Contrary to the popular belief, if raw fish is not used, maki sushi make one of the cheapest meals I can think of (at least in Switzerland, where all the basic ingredients are available and not expensive).
The reason why I rarely post about these rolls is that dexterity is not my good side and they never look as perfect and neat as those seen on some friendly blogs. From time to time I decide to post about different maki versions even if they looks clumsy and messy, because the taste is still there (I have written about Asparagus Maki and Ground Beef Maki). Shrimp, avocado and cucumber is the filling I make very often, especially in spring and summer because it is particularly light and refreshing. I also practically always have all the necessary ingredients (the shrimp is frozen in small batches) and this is not accidental because I love them separately as well as combined together.
Since many people think maki sushi is extremely difficult and/or long to prepare, I would like to insist once more that it is absolutely false. Maybe the first rolling experience is a bit tricky because it’s a new technique to learn, but if I remember well, the second, third and fourth rolls are already easier and quicker to prepare. Of course, depending on your patience, skills and attention to details, the result will be more or less beautiful, but it is always rewarding and, for me, experimenting with new ingredients also means lots of fun. I start treating maki sushi a bit like sandwiches which can be made with practically anything.
If you don’t like this combination, you might prefer one of these:
TIPS: Since I am able to devour lots of maki, I reduce the rice amount in order to make them lighter and low-calorie. As you see on the photo above, contrary to the traditional maki, the filling takes here more space than the rice. If you prefer a standard, not lightened maki version, increase the rice amount (500 g or about 17,5 oz instead of 300 g or about 10,5 oz).
When you buy nori sheets, pay attention to their transparency and colour. I was told in Japan that darker and less transparent nori means better quality (of course there are more sophisticated criteria to judge the quality once the nori is dark and opaque enough to be considered good quality, but I found the above tip a good way to discard low-quality products).
I add sake to the rice mixture (I think it adds a pleasant aroma), but this is not the usual mixture recipe, so skip it if you want.
rice cooker (unless you know how to cook the rice in a “normal” pan)
maki rolling mat
Preparation: 20 minutes (+ 1 hour for rice rinsing, cooking, seasoning and cooling)
Ingredients (serves 3):
5 nori seaweed sheets
300g (about 10,5 oz) sushi rice (or 500g/about 17,5 oz if you prefer “standard” rolls)
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
(1 tablespoon sake)
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
20 medium sized cooked shrimps (deveined and peeled); I need about 4 shrimps per sheet
1 big cucumber
grilled white sesame seeds
soy sauce+wasabi, marinated ginger
a small bowl of rice vinegar (for brushing and finger dipping)
Cook the rice in the rice cooker (or in a pan if you know how to do it). Put the hot rice into a bowl and add the rice mixture ingredients. Stir well and leave to cool down.
In the meantime cut the avocado flesh and cucumber into long pieces.
When the rice has cooled down to the room temperature (it can’t be completely cold, otherwise it won’t be sticky enough), put a nori sheet vertically on the rolling mat, shiny side down.
With fingers dipped in a bowl of rice vinegar spread 1/5th of the rice evenly, leaving a 1 cm gap on the top, far edge.
Arrange the filling ingredients on the rice, in a horizontal line, close to the bottom edge.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Roll the maki starting from the bottom edge, gently pressing after each turn.
Brush with rice vinegar the upper edge before doing the last turn (it will help to seal the roll).
Press gently the roll and put it aside.
In order to obtain more or less similarly sized pieces, cut the roll first in two parts, then put them in a row and cut them in two parts, etc.
(It is easier to cut the rolls with a moist knife blade.)
Arrange them on a plate and serve with wasabi, soy sauce and marinated ginger.