After green salads, maki sushi are my second biggest spring cooking frenzy. I am not able to prepare perfectly shaped and equal rolls, but the taste is there, so my lack of dexterity doesn’t stop me from preparing them regularly (I guess I should write about them more often…). Maki sushi are quick (and become quicker and easier to prepare with practice), cheap, healthy and offer endless combinations. Crunchy, slightly blanched green asparagus gives a fresh seasonal spring touch to maki sushi and confirms once more that asparagus, in spite of its distinct taste, creates marvellous dishes even with such bold ingredients as seaweed. Here I have combined it with mayonnaise and katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes, see below). I find the result extraordinary, but if you don’t like or cannot find shaved bonito, asparagus alone is an amazing maki sushi filler.
Even though I play rather freely with different ingredients, the idea of asparagus maki sushi came from Shizuoka Gourmet blog, an excellent source of virtual culinary trips to Japan (or rather to the Shizuoka prefecture!). Without Robert-Gilles’s blog I would never imagine that asparagus and katsuobushi might be a perfect company. Its smoky taste, combined with crunchy fresh asparagus and mayonnaise is stunning. It’s a pity I cannot prepare these maki sushi all year round. Thank you, Robert-Gilles, for this wonderful idea!
If you are fond of asparagus, you might like some of these ideas (click at the images):
You might also like these sushi maki versions:
TIPS: As you see above, I prefer maki with less rice than usually served in restaurants and on most blogs, but if you prefer the “standard” rice amount, count 500g (about about 17,5 oz) rice and not 300g (about 10,5 oz).
Dried shaved bonito flakes (katsuobushi) are sold in bags in Japanese grocery shops. Together with konbu seaweed it is one of the ingredients of the most popular version of Japanese stock (dashi, see the recipe here). It cannot be substituted by anything, but if you don’t find it, these maki sushi will be excellent anyway.
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).
Sesame seeds are far from obligatory too. I am simply addicted…
rice cooker (unless you know how to cook the rice in a “normal” pan)
maki rolling mat or a special futomaki roller
Preparation: 20 minutes (+ 1 hour for rice cooking and cooling)
Ingredients (serves 3):
5 nori seaweed sheets
300g (about 10,5 oz) sushi rice (or 500g/about 17,5 oz cups if you prefer “standard” rolls)
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
15 green thin asparagus spears (about 1 cm diameter), 3 for every nori sheet
10 heaped tablespoons katsuobushi
(grilled white sesame seeds)
a bowl of rice vinegar
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 off the toughest lower part of the asparagus spears (usually the lower 20%).
Blanch the asparagus spears (about 2 minutes) and let them cool down.
When the rice has cooled down to the room temperature (it can’t be completely cold!), 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.
Moist the upper edge with rice vinegar before doing the last turn.
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 maki with a moist knife blade.)
Arrange them on a plate and serve with wasabi, soy sauce and marinated ginger.