Jan 15

Vegetarian sushi rolls

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway – my New Year’s resolution. OK, I haven’t read the book but the principles seem pretty straightforward. Thus, it was decided that today I would confront my Japanese nemesis – sushi.

As I stood at the table looking at all the paraphernalia, my mind tried to piece everything together. This was not merely cooking – it was an art form. Hundreds of years of Japanese culinary evolution had brought us to these contemporary jewels of edible Eastern culture. And I was probably going to botch it up. Making sushi from scratch suddenly seemed like an esoteric process best left to the masters.

Well, not content with being healthy, supremely tasty and a joy to look at, it turns out that sushi is actually also remarkably easy, and quick, to make. Whether you are a Yo Sushi devotee, or have never succumbed to the lure of these delectable little tidbits, try making sushi yourself and it will most definitely become a staple in your culinary repertoire.

I had been planning to use a recipe from the amazing vegan cookery book Veganomicon, but was then unable to get hold of some of the ingredients. Based on previous experience, if the sushi-making was postponed, the nori seaweed sheets would desiccate in the cupboard following a few years of neglect. So, instead of using silken tofu and tempeh I resorted to cream cheese, along with some colourful vegetables for aesthetic interest.


Although the filling suggestion below is delicate in flavour, strong seasonings and spice also work extremely well. Once you have mastered the process, you can start to experiment with many different flavours. Sushi rolls can be filled with anything that suits your taste, as long as it is either of a smooth consistency, or chopped into thin strips or finely diced. Each roll only requires a modicum of additional filling so even tiny leftover amounts of cooked meat or chicken, raw or cooked vegetables, marinated tofu, or even sandwich fillings can be put to good use.

For best results, use complementary flavours and textures and try to introduce at least one bright colour in the filling. Carrot, beetroot, red pepper and greens all add some visual whizz and a bit of crunch. Do not be tempted to overstuff the roll – a thin line of each filling is plenty and will make your life easier when you begin rolling.

Sushi rolls are very portable and can be an indulgent lunchbox or picnic treat. They make a perfect light meal and are possibly the most elegant snack ever to have graced your refrigerator.  Sophisticated enough for entertaining, their visual appeal and elegance makes them an impressive starter or canapé. Breakfast? Why not. Use omelette strips in the filling if you need to be convinced by the inclusion of traditional breakfast ingredients.

Wasabi leaves make the perfect basis for an oriental salad to serve as an accompaniment. If you make the filling below, you will have some julienne style vegetables leftover – mix them together with a light dressing, spoon onto the plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Recipe – vegetarian sushi rolls

Makes about 24

  • 3 toasted Nori seaweed sheets
  • 200g sushi rice
  • 2tbsp sushi rice seasoning (or use rice vinegar with 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of salt)
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 carrot – purple variety if possible
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Optional, but highly recommended:

  • Wasabi powder mixed with water, or wasabi paste
  • Soya sauce
  • Pickled ginger


SPECIAL EQUIPMENT – You may like to invest in a bamboo rolling mat designed specifically for sushi. I used a bamboo place mat, which was rather large but seemed to do the job. I do not think either is strictly necessary if you are at all deft with your hands.

If you are serious about sushi, but are having trouble sourcing the more obscure ingredients, you can buy kits varying in price from about £15 – £30.



Use this method or follow the package instructions.

Rinse the sushi rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a pan, cover with 375ml cold water, and leave to soak for approx 30 mins. Once soaked, bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. The rice will still look slightly moist, but should be soft with only a little bite.

Transfer the cooked rice to a bowl, sprinkle with the mirin and mix through. Set aside for 20 minutes or so until it is just warm. Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the filling.


Wash the vegetables, and cut everything into thin, julienne style strips. Discard the moist seeded part of the cucumber, and the white part of the spring onion.

Put the cream cheese in a small bowl and mix together to make it into a smooth spreadable consistency.


Take a sheet of the seaweed and place it on your bamboo rolling mat, or on a chopping board if you do not have a mat.

Spread around one-third of the rice mixture onto the nori seaweed leaving a small gap around the sides and bottom, and 2cm gap at the top.

Spread 1tbsp of the cream cheese in a horizontal line across the centre of the rice layer.

Above the cream cheese, lay a thin strip of carrot. Continue in the same way with the cucumber then the spring onion so you have horizontal layers of filling. You will only need a small amount of each filling – do not overfill; any remaining vegetables can be served as a salad.

Sprinkle over some sesame seeds.

Using your mat, start from the bottom and begin to roll the sushi so the seaweed sheet is forming a spiral. Form as tight a roll as possible without causing the filling to squidge out of the ends.

Rest the completed sushi roll on the seam-end and place on a plate. Continue this process with the remaining seaweed sheets.

Once you have assembled all three sushi rolls, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a few minutes to cool.

Slice the rolls into discs – a serrated knife may be easier. You will get around eight per roll.

Perfect served with soya sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.



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