25 May 2012

Raw Tempura Maki Rolls

Before I adopted a vegan diet, and even before I became a vegetarian... way back when I was still a small child, I never cared for fish. It was the fishy-taste. Fishy sugo was the worst. I hated the baccalĂ  that appeared in our sugo every Christmas eve, and you wouldn't have caught me anywhere near a plate of linguini alle vongole. Barf.

So what? Right? I've been vegan for more than half of my existence at this point. Why am I even blathering about fish/seafood?1
One of those chlorophyll/iodine/protein-rich weeds of the sea.2 You know, the ones that, if harvested from the right sources, are a great addition to a healthy diet.

I actually ate ALL of these.
Except...the first time I tried nori, I spat it out.3 I knew it was nutritionally dense, I wanted to be able to add it to my diet, but it was just too fishy. I couldn't stomach it. Until one day, my friend convinced me to accompany her to a sushi restaurant. She knew I was vegan, but insisted I would be able to eat something. I told her I had a hard time with nori, and she insisted I would be fine.
She wasn't entirely wrong. She introduced me to inari (rice stuffed in a tofu pouch), which I thought was pretty darn cool, at the time. She also encouraged me to try an inside out roll. I was skeptical, and slightly concerned.
With the rice on the outside (and slathered in wasabi), the nori inside was barely detectable.

This was uber-exciting, and I proceeded to incorporate nori into my diet by way of various inside-out veggie rolls. Somehow, I must have developed a tolerance, if you will, because years and years later, I found myself enjoying sheets of roasted nori... alone. I even chew chlorella tablets and add kelp flakes to salads.4
I say tolerance because every now and again, a little too much "fish-taste" comes through, or I get a bite of salad with a high concentration of kelp flakes, and I can't handle it.
Although the complete recipe does require a bit of pre-prep, you can certainly take a few short cuts, and still turn out5 a delicious roll.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this batch was the high-raw pseudo-tempura version because I didn't want to wait to dehydrate the tempura, and I used SeaSnax Wasabi Seaweed Snacks to make the rolls. SeaSnax are roasted but they're still amazing because unlike other nori snacks, they contain NO canola oil or maltodextrins - just nori, olive oil, salt and wasabi. YUM, indeed.

These rolls are a combination of conventional and non-conventional ideas/ingredients. White rice is nutritionally empty, so it's right out. Brown rice is ok, but it's neither my favorite nor something I would make at home. I would probably have used quinoa, but I wanted to make raw rolls... raw rolls that weren't based heavily on nuts and seeds.6

I have an effective little "trick" to soften/tenderize the asparagus, without using salt/tamari/aminos... freeze it.
Yep; that's it. Easy, eh?
Simply freeze fresh asparagus spears for 1-2 days, then allow them to thaw at room temp. They end up soft(er), almost as though they've been cooked... uh... except they haven't been. It's pretty neat.

That's just what I did with these little guys. However, as I mentioned above, I didn't want to wait for the dehydrator this time, so I just tossed the tenderized asparagus with the dry tempura ingredients until they were coated. The recipe shares the full tempura directions :-)

Raw Tempura Rolls
(serves 3-4)
  • 1 head of Cauliflower
  • 2 (large) Portabella Mushroom Caps (stems removed)
  • 1 Avocado
  • 5 stalks of Asparagus (frozen, then thawed)
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Aminos
  • Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar (or Unseasoned Rice Vinegar, if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp Coconut Nectar (or 3-4 drops of Liquid Stevia)
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Flakes 
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/4 Cup Ground Chia or Ground Flax Seeds
  • Dehydrated nori sheets (I used SeaSnax for this batch)
  • Raw Sesame Seeds (optional)
Cut the cauliflower head to remove the florets, then cut away the extra stems from the florets. A bit of stem is OK, but there should be very little.
Cut or crumble the florets into small pieces and add them to a food processor fitted with an S blade.
Pulse the cauliflower until it is evenly processed into a consistency resembling rice. It's fine if the "grains" are smaller; it's more important that they are mostly uniform in size. Although, it's difficult to over process, but it's still a good idea to take your time, in order to get the best consistency.

Transfer the cauliflower rice into a separate bowl. add the vinegar, coconut nectar (or stevia), and an extra 1/2 tsp of filtered water. Toss the mixture until the liquids are evenly distributed. Cover and allow the cauliflower to marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Slice the portabellas into thin strips. Place the strips in a shallow dish. Add the coconut aminos and gently toss to make sure the all the mushroom strips are evenly coated. Cover the dish and allow the mushrooms to marinate in the refrigerator.for 1-2 hours or overnight.

SHORT CUT #1:  Forget the marinating time, and skip straight to assembly.

In a food processor fitted with the S blade, combine the shredded coconut and nutritional yeast. Process for 30-60 seconds, or until the coconut reaches a finer consistency. Take care not to over-process.
Stir 2 Tbsp of the ground chia into the coconut mixture.

Add the remaining ground chia to a medium-sized bowl, and stir in 1/2 Cup of filtered water. Continue stirring as the mixture begins to thicken, to avoid lumps. Allow the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes.

Once the chia mixture has thickened,  "batter" the asparagus spears by dipping them in the chia "egg" mixture, and then rolling them in the dry mixture, until they are evenly coated. Arrange the coated asparagus on a dehydrator tray lined with the mesh/screen fitting.
Dehydrate at 110F/ for 2-3 hours, or until the "tempura" is dry and crisp. The idea is to get the coating as dry as possible without shriveling the asparagus.

Cut the asparagus to match the length of your nori sheets. Since I used the SeaSnax, I cut mine smaller but allowed extra length on the pieces with the spear end, so it would stick out of the top, and look cool.

Cut the avocado in half, and slice each half into thin slices. I make the slices directly in the skin, and then carefully scoop the flesh out of the skin, so it comes out already sliced. Super-easy, and really helpful if the avocado is soft and ripe.

SHORT CUT #2:  Skip the chia "egg", and forget the dehydrating. Roll the damp, cut asparagus in the dry tempura ingredients, and add it to the roll.

Lay out one sheet of nori onto a flat surface. If you're using larger sheets, a bamboo sushi roller, would be helpful. Again, since my sheets were small, I was able to hand roll them easily. It was also not necessary to cut the rolls into pieces once they were finished.
  1. Spread an even layer of the cauliflower rice over 1/2 of the sheet (or 3/4 of the sheet if using SeaSnax). 
  2. Arrange one asparagus spear, 1-2 slices of avocado, and one slice of mushroom in the center of the rice. 
  3. Carefully roll toward the riceless edge of the nori sheet, and allow the edge of the nori to seal itself to the roll. The ingredients should have dampened the nori, making this step quite simple.
Repeat the steps above for each roll.

If using standard nori sheets, use a sharp knife to cut the roll into bite-sized pieces.
Sprinkle the rolls with sesame seeds, if desired. Serve as-is or with pickled ginger and wasabi.


1. Well, I do still find the smell pretty nauseating.
2. Aren't I clever?
3. I also have a grappa story that goes something like that.
4. Ohmygosh. Who am I??? Seriously.
5. I suppose "roll out" is more apropos here.
6. And I have to avoid sunflower seeds now anyway :-( 

1 comment:

  1. Wow - I have never thought to do raw tempura before! I have to find some asparagus to try your neat freeze-thaw trick. I find that if I sliver raw asparagus really thin, I don't mind it in ribbon salad.