How to Make Sushi Your Kids Will Love
Many people think of sushi as an “adult” food, a cuisine you begin to appreciate later in life. But with a little creativity, you can adapt the sushi concept for a kids palette to create a meal the whole family will love.
My mom was raised in Japan, so I grew up with staples of rice and nori (dried seaweed) in the house, even though we lived in North Carolina. We didn’t eat raw fish, but instead would wrap some rice and assorted leftovers in the nori with our hands and eat it for a snack. Once you break the assumption that sushi is only about the fish, you can create some innovative and kid-friendly sushi rolls. Sushi actually just means “sour tasting,” named for the style of rice dressed with the vinegar-based su.
Almost any age child can try their hand at rolling the sushi themselves, though it takes a lot of practice even for adults to create the perfect roll. Even if the roll is messy, with the right ingredients, everything will still taste delicious and learning how to make sushi will offer a glimpse into a different culture and cuisine. Although you might not have previously thought that sushi was a kid-friendly food, once you see your children’s little fingers happily snacking on sushi bites, it might become a staple in your house!
Kid-Friendly Sushi Ingredients
Skip the raw fish and stick with fillings that suit a child’s palette, like avocado, a rainbow of vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, and cucumber, tofu, tuna, omelet, or edamame. For the hard vegetables, make sure to slice them very, very thin if you are including them raw. Or, cook the vegetables slightly to soften them. Tofu or egg can be quickly fried and then sliced into thin strips. Tuna is an easy substitute for any roll that would normally include “krab” meat. Or, try smoked salmon and cream cheese, with a sprinkle of everything seasoning, for a breakfast sushi roll!
How to Make Sushi Rice
You may think that rice is just rice, but sushi rice is the key element to creating delicious sushi at home. The proper rice is an essential part to learning how to make sushi. Start with short-grain, Japanese sushi rice, which has a different consistency and flavor than long-grain rice or jasmine rice. Japanese rice has a texture that helps it get its signature stickiness.
Rinse the rice several times before adding to a rice cooker with an equal amount of water. If you don’t have a rice cooker, bring the rice to a boil over medium-high heat and then turn to low to simmer for about ten minutes before removing from the heat to let it finish cooking slowly. To turn your cooked rice into sushi rice, pour a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt over your rice and then fan the rice to cool it down more quickly until it reaches room temperature.
Sushi Rice Ratio:
1 cup sushi rice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ cup rice vinegar
Rolling Your Sushi
You’ll roll your rice in nori, dried seaweed, which is one of the hardest parts of learning how to make sushi. Start by placing one sheet of nori onto a bamboo sushi mat, with the shiny side facing down. Bamboo sushi rolling mats are very inexpensive and make it much easier to roll your sushi! Spread between 1 cup and ½ cup of sushi rice onto the center of the nori and, using wet fingers, pat the rice across the nori. Leave about 1 inch of nori on one end bare, to help with the roll.
Arrange your fillings in the center of the rice and then carefully roll the sushi up tightly. Start by lifting the edge of the sushi sheet and folding it over the fillings, tucking it in tightly, and continue to roll with a tucking motion. After completing the roll, squeeze it gently with the bamboo mat to ensure everything sticks together and the edge is sealed. If the edge isn’t sealing completely, dampen it with a bit of water or vinegar. Finish by cutting each roll into bite-sized sushi pieces.
Let your kids eat the sushi with their fingers, or, once they are old enough, create “cheat chopsticks.” Just take a pair of chopsticks and tie the ends together, about 1-2 inches from the top with a rubber band. Put in a little piece of folded paper (if you are used disposable wooden chopsticks, you can use the paper wrapper for this) in between the chopsticks, right under the rubber band. This method will allow kids (or adults!) to get used to using chopsticks by just pinching them together, instead of the traditional way of holding chopsticks that can be challenging at first.
Make it a Sushirrito
Sushirritos, or sushi-burritos, are a trendy and kid-friendly take on sushi.
2 cups room temperature, cooked and seasoned sushi rice
4 ounces salmon or sashimi-grade ahi tuna, cut into small
2 nori sheets
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 cucumber, sliced into strips
¼ cup pickled onions
½ carrot, cut into strips
Sriricha mayo, to taste
Lay two sheets of nori next to one another on a bamboo mat. Moisten the connected edges and press to seal them into one long sheet. Wet your fingers and spread the rice in a thin layer over the nori, covering approximately haf of the nori. Arrange fish in the center of the nori sheet, from edge to edge, then layer cucumber, carrot, picked onion, and avocado on top. Drizzle with sriracha mayo, to taste. Using a bamboo mat, roll the sushrrito into a tight roll, it will end up about 3 inches thick. Cut in half, and serve.
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