The Yomiuri ShimbunTazunazushi
In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.
Kakuho Aoe isn’t just the chief priest of Ryokusenji temple in Tokyo’s Nishiasakusa area. He’s also a chef.
As a special dish to welcome guests in the New Year season, Aoe suggested making tazunazushi, in which thinly sliced cucumbers, carrots and white konnyaku are rolled up to make colorful sushi with a slightly salty and subtle taste. Tazuna literally means horse reins.
“Making sushi is a show of hospitality to guests. Tazunazushi has an attractive appearance, and there are colorful options available by switching up the ingredients. Making it fun is one aspect the appeal of this type of sushi has,” Aoe said.
It is important to slice the ingredients thinly so they are easy to roll. Using a peeler is recommended for the cucumbers and carrots. After slicing the vegetables, sprinkle salt over them and set them aside for a while to soften. Tsukemono pickled vegetables cut with a knife can also be used. Konnyaku — a tough, gelatinous vegetable product — should be cut into slivers and then seasoned with salt.
Aoe cut all the ingredients into pieces about 6 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide, but they can be cut in different lengths or widths.
“But please be careful not to make them too narrow — a certain width is necessary for the ingredients to firmly hold the vinegared rice,” Aoe said.
Shape the rice into a thin bar, with its diameter about one-third of the length of the ingredients. The rice and ingredients will stick to each other about 30 minutes after rolling.
Cucumbers and other ingredients can be on the salty side, but are light and provide a refined taste. Their beautiful colors make the table more glamorous. Because the vegetables are already seasoned with salt, this sushi can be served and eaten without soy sauce.
Other possible ingredients include daikon Japanese radish, bell pepper, zucchini and shiso leaf. Aoe stuck with vegetables this time, but boiled shrimp and smoked salmon are also options.
Aoe said he sometimes makes tazunazushi if a friend is getting married. “Tazunazushi is not only for the New Year season. It’s also good to make in red and white for celebrations,” he said.
Recipe for tazunazushi
Ingredients (serves 2 or 3):
One-fifth of a bar of white konnyaku
150 grams of uncooked rice, steamed
3 tbsp sushi vinegar
1. Sprinkle sushi vinegar over steamed rice in a bowl. Fold with a rice paddle to make vinegared rice.
2. Use a peeler to slice cucumber and carrot into strips. Rub in salt and leave for about 30 minutes. Cut konnyaku into strips with a knife and sprinkle salt on top.
3. Place a 30-centimeter square of plastic wrap over a makisu bamboo mat. In the middle of the half of the mat closest to you, place slices of the ingredients at an angle, edges overlapping (see photo A). Shape the vinegared rice into a long, thin bar and place it on top of the sliced ingredients (see photo B). Roll them up with the bamboo mat.
4. Leave the roll at room temperature for 30 minutes. After removing the plastic wrap, cut the roll into pieces about 3 to 4 centimeters long with a wet knife. Place them on a dish to serve.
When you have leftover vinegared rice, Aoe recommends making tempura. For each portion of rice (equivalent 150 grams uncooked), mix in 10 minced shiso leaves and one tablespoon of white roasted sesame. Roll the seasoned rice into balls, sprinkle with starch and coat with a batter made of equal parts flour and water. Fry in hot oil until slightly browned. If you like, cut in half before serving. Shiso lends a subtle accent to the taste.
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