Aloha! I just got back from a week in Maui with my husband and his mother, where I did nothing but swim (more like jump in and out of the water like a spaz—I have a phobia of waves), eat giant tropical fruits, and read teen fantasy novels.
Some highlights of the trip were seeing the top of Haleakala—10,000 feet above sea-level, the only place in the world where the silversword grows—watching humpback whales that weighed more than our boat breaching and pounding the water with their tailfins, walking on Ho’okipa Beach with sleeping green sea turtles, and waking up to the moon setting over the ocean on Christmas morning.
But between all that grandeur…I had the vegetarian market a short walk from our condo. God do I love a vegetarian market. If you’re familiar with the super popular Mana Foods in Paia, you have an idea of what Maui Farmers Market is like in Honokowai. When you walk in, there is a smoothie bar (with açai and dragon fruit bowls, of course), a refrigerator case FULL of tasty vegan things, like veggie sandwiches and wraps, cakes and bars, chia puddings and fresh-squeezed juices, plus locally made hummus and guacamole. THEN there’s a glorious salad bar—the good kind, with multiple types of lettuce, little edamame beans, and even a tub of sliced avocado.
After that you get a hot buffet of vegetarian and vegan treats, like breadfruit curry and breakfast tofu wraps, and THEN a row of vegan soups and two big rice cookers.
They even had tons of tasty packaged vegan things I’ve never had the chance to try, like cheddar Daiya cheese, smoked tempeh bacon, and Califia farms almond milks.
And of course they have cool local items, like bread baked on Maui, pineapple jelly, and lots of produce, like tiny apple bananas, papayas, and passion fruit.
Ah! It was bliss!
If you are a vegan planning on traveling to Maui, I *highly* recommend staying within walking distance of the place. Even though Maui is bursting with tropical fruit and Asian staples like tofu and rice, it can be hard to find a satisfying vegan meal at a local restaurant—unless you are a HUGE fan of cantaloupe fruit boats and veggie burgers. Even though my husband and mother-in-law were kind enough to let me scour menus for vegan options before each meal, I found myself more excited about picking up dinner from the store than sitting down at a restaurant.
Anyway, let’s talk about this sushi.
You know that familiar brick-in-the-stomach sensation you get after a week of holiday feasting? My husband calls it that “not so fresh feeling.” A day or so after most holidays, after I’ve struggled through the leftovers and “stuffing” has taken on a double meaning, I’m ready for a break from all that rich food. Because of my Maui adventure, I don’t have that this time, but all that air travelling and time changing can take its own toll.
That’s where sushi comes in. In my opinion, sushi ranks right up there with clear, brothy soup as a holiday recovery food. White rice makes it filling, but is mild enough not to aggravate a sensitive post-holiday stomach. And the veggie centers make it easy to get some ruffage down the hatch without crunching through salad (my husband claims this continued crunching is what makes salad a categorically boring menu item…lol).
Now, I’ve been putting off making my own sushi for a while. A couple reasons:
- There’s already so much great sushi out there—they even have veggie sushi at the supermarket in Waco!
- I’m terrible at making rice. I’m good with fancy rice, like risotto, but plain old white rice that doesn’t stick to itself in a glob throws me for a loop. My great shame.
- All that assembly! This is why we Texans are happy to pay one experienced person to make 200 tamales instead of hacking away on 20 tamales in our own kitchens.
But after seeing so much homemade vegetable sushi on Instagram, I finally gave it a go. Turns out? I’m a homemade sushi convert.
Making the rice didn’t turn out to be a problem—If you follow the directions on the packet (doh!), the sushi rice is actually easy to make. And the thing with the assembly? It doesn’t take that long. In fact, if you roll up raw fillings, it’s faster than cooking dinner. And the fact that sushi is readily available at the store? Well fresh sushi is way better. NOW I know that the storebought stuff is dried out and refrigerator-flavored!
That said, here are my pro tips for making your maiden voyage with homemade sushi as simple as possible:
1. Buy bonafide sushi rice from the Asian market (or aisle).
I struggled to make sticky rice with other types of rice to clean out my pantry. But there’s something particular about the starchy exterior of sushi rice that gives it the perfect texture. Bonus—it’s not that pricey and comes in a huge bulk sack.
2. Start with skinny toppings, like cucumbers, carrot sticks, and tofu slices.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of rolling up the sushi, turn to more formidable fillings like soft avocado and fluffy lettuce. It tries to escape!
3. Keep a dish of water with a few tablespoons of rice vinegar nearby for sealing the rolls.
Dip your fingers into the dish and sprinkle the vinegar water on the edge of the nori before sealing it up.
4. Make sure your hands are wet while you’re handling the rice.
You’ll have a dish of water with a few tablespoons of rice vinegar handy for sealing the rolls. Before you handle rice, dip your fingers into this mixture. Keeps you from becoming Edward Sticky Rice Hands!
5. Use leftover veggies!
Roll up roasted vegetables or leftover salad to save time. Just make sure to slice them in thin strips.
6. Slice with a very clean serrated knife to keep from smashing the rolls.
It’s easy to destroy your handiwork by squishing your sushi roll into more of a sushi disk if you use a dull knife. Use a serrated bread or sandwich knife using a gentle but fast sawing motion instead of mashing down with all your might. Pro tip: Rinse and dry the blade between rolls so it doesn’t get sticky and snag when you try to make clean cuts. Or sprinkle some of that vinegar water on the blade!
And in case any of you are wondering…it is totally possible to go on vacation with your husband and his mom. Pro tips:
- Get rooms on different floors. (Duh)
- Take some time alone and in pairs (you and the mom, your husband his mom, you and your husband). Everyone gets alone time and gets a chance to spend quality time with each other.
- Make sure activities keep everyone happy. For example, long hikes up the mountains might not work for your mother-in-law, and you can draw the line at anything involving a tour bus. In Maui, there’s plenty to do between those extremes.
Enjoy the sushi! And mele kalikimaka!
- 2 cups sushi rice
- 2 cups water
- 3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
- 4–6 nori sheets
- 1 avocado
- 5 large leaves of green lettuce
- 3 small carrots, shredded
- Optional: sesame seeds
- For serving: wasabi paste (or red chili sauce), soy sauce
- Wash and rinse the rice: add the rice to a bowl (or to the pot), cover with cool water, and swish around. Pour off the cloudy water. Repeat. Then rinse the washed rice in a colander under cool water.
- Cook the sushi rice according to package directions (Or combine 2 cups water with 2 cups sushi rice, bring to a boil, and reduce to a low simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.) Alternately, prepare in a rice cooker according to user manual.
- Transfer the rice to a large glass bowl and add sugar and rice vinegar, folding it in with a rice paddle or wooden spoon. Let sit uncovered until cool enough to handle but still warm.
- On a bamboo sushi roller, lay out one sheet of nori.
- Scoop about ¾ cup of rice onto the half of the nori sheet that is closest to you.
- Add the fillings in one long strip in the middle of the rice, parallel with the edge of the rice closest to you.
- Roll the nori, pressing firmly to make sure it’s tight and forcing the rice to meet and seal in the fillings.
- When you get to the other side, dip your fingers into the water/vinegar mixture and use it to “glue” the nori.
- Cut into ½-inch rolls using a clean serrated knife.
- Lightly cover with a damp cloth until ready to serve!
- Serve the sushi rolls with wasabi paste, soy sauce, and chili sauce (like Sriracha or Sambal Oelek).
- Store leftover rolls in the refrigerator sealed in a container with a damp paper towel inside. Note: MUCH better fresh.
The Waco Vegan is no longer updated. You can find me over at RandleBrowning.com instead.