It was a lively gathering at the Vegan Foodies Club in September. After some great conversation about the food system – with topics ranging from the IMO (Indigenous Micro Organism) growing model in Waianae, the supermarket dilemma- to buy organic or local?, and GMO politics – we were ready to turn our complete attention to the beautiful food adventure in front of us. The theme was: Vegan Sushi-Style Rolls and our club members had come prepared to impress. What followed was a delightful and diverse presentation of six different vegan interpretations of eating stuffed tubes.
Japanese Style – Yasuko Dasu
It’s said that the Japanese were the first to develop tofu pouches made from cutting thin slices of tofu and then deep frying… twice! These fun tofu skins, called Aburage, (used to wrap inari) were the outer layer of Yasoku’s vegan wrap.
Her next layer was Shiso leaf, a frilly, citrus tasting base on which she put strips of lightly cooked carrot and burdock, two powerfully nutritious roots which she marinated with classic Japanese flavors of vinegar, shoyu, mirin, and sesame oil. Rolling this up, she placed each tofu skin wrap seam side down and baked it in the toaster oven for a few minutes until slightly crispy and warm. The last touch was a dollop of miso sauce, adding a creamy saltiness that was almost like melted butter on the hot Auburage. Wow!
Hippie Style – Dodi Rose
The base of this wrap was a brilliant emerald green collard leaf, softened by blanching and overlaid with a sheet of nori seaweed. That alone was amazing. Dodi filled this high calcium supergreen with nutrient-rich quinoa mixed with brown rice and purslane, a local plant that’s often treated like a weed but oils the body with omega-3s.
Dodi called this bulging wrap “portable food” and showed us how she carries the sauce in a spray bottle for easy application while eating on-the-go. The dressing was a mixture of Bragg’s, lemon, ume plum vinegar, and nutritional yeast, four simple things that together burst with flavor.
Swanky Style – Joy Waters
Inspired by the tasty memory of the unagi dishes I loved as a kid, I researched how to make a vegan version. I wanted an alternative to white rice, so I used an English cucumber as the shell of the wrap which I carefully hollowed out with a 1/4-teaspoon. I filled the cucumber tube with a mixture made from silken tofu (the boxed kind) sauteed with onions and then creamed into red quinoa and flavored with a “spicy mayo” (vegenaise and sriracha), and sprinkled generously with Furikake, for ocean flavor.
Turns out that the sauce, called Tare, is super easy to make. It’s a reduction of soy sauce with mirin and sugar until it becomes syrupy. To get the texture of unagi, I used fresh shiitake mushrooms, flash fried until crispy on the outside and then braised in the sauce until chewy with a salty-sweet-burnt flavor. The stuffed cucumber roll was sliced and each piece topped with a strip of marinated shiitake mushroom and a chunk of avocado.
Healthy Local Style – Phyllis Fong
Thick slabs of tofu seasoned with homemade teriyaki sauce was the star of this delicious wrap. Phyllis piled the tofu on a base of brown rice covering a square of nori seaweed to which she added sauteed mushrooms and wombok, (a Chinese cabbage with delicate leaves and a mild flavor) and handfuls of cilantro. She rolled big, hearty servings, a roll that is great for a picnic or hike. We learned that the secret way to keep the outer layer of nori crunchy was to toast it first on a burner (much like a tortilla) before stuffing it.
Thrive Style – Carol and Senator Mike Gabbard
This roll was filled with a savory pate made from soaked almonds and fresh basil from the Gabbard’s garden. The pate sparked the mouth and was so good we could have eaten it by the spoonful. Another ingredient was the Gabbards’ famous crusty tofu recipe, and Carol explained their secret method. First toss the tofu with olive oil, spike and soy sauce and then bake it for 20 minutes. It is only after they remove it from the oven do they coat each piece with nutritional yeast to give it a flavorful crust.
Carol layered the tofu and pesto on a nori sheet piled with quinoa, sprouts, avocado and the This protein-rich wrap was satisfying and refreshing.
Koren Style – Boram Shin
Traditional Kim Bap has a white rice base with spam or egg (or both!) in it, but this healthy vegan version by Boram was layered with brown rice and then a tasty combination of cucumber, carrot and wilted spinach. The vegetables were cooked separately and slightly pickled with vinegar and sugar before being assembled into this beautiful wrap with nori seaweed.
Although Boram said it was the first time she made Kim Bap, she maneuvered the sushi mat like a pro and her rolls looked perfect. She showed us how to press rice grains into the edges of the nor roll to seal it shut like glue.
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