• 3

    Servings

  • Prep Time 25'

  • Total Time 35'

  • Vegan

  • Gluten-free

Vegan sushi with marinated tofu recipe

  • 3

    Servings

  • Prep Time 25'

  • Total Time 35'

  • Vegan

  • Gluten-free

Originally developed in Southeast Asia as a means of preserving fish by wrapping it in fermented rice, sushi is today one of the most iconic dishes in the world, strongly associated with Japanese culinary culture. Only later, during the Muromachi period, did people begin expanding the morsel to include the rice whereas before this fermented grain had been discarded. And later still into the Edo period lacto-fermentation was swapped for vinegar to give the rice it’s sour tasting flavour. It isn’t too great a leap to see these premade mouthfuls of rice, fish and seaweed as a very early form of fast food.

It may come as a surprise to know that sushi is not originally a Japanese dish. In fact, the delicacy first arose in Southeast Asia before spreading around China and finally sometime during the 8th century migrating to Japan. A common misconception of sushi is that it must include fish, but the word actually refers to the preservation method and translates to ‘vinegared rice’. With this in mind, it becomes much easier to imagine a completely plant-based version of sushi, one which excludes fish completely.

In recent years, the awareness of plant only diets and substitutes to meats and fish have skyrocketed. With pioneering food companies developing replacements for meat and dairy products. However, not one person has had a more inspired take on this recreation process, and his efforts have been exclusively focussed on sushi.

In 2004, chef James Corwell took a trip to the largest fish market in the world – Tsukiji, Japan. The market, an early morning affair, each day sees purveyors of some of the world’s finest tuna and deep water fish all congregate in a single place. Upon arrival, Chris laid eyes on two football-field-sized warehouses selling only tuna. By around 10:30 am, both had been completely emptied. Just hours before, the tuna, swimming in shoals hundreds strong had been cut, packed up, and sent out to their final destinations in the sushi kitchens around Japan.

“How are the oceans supposed to keep up?” thought Corwell,

“…this happens every day, all over the world.”

Chris, who worked at Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant in Napa Valley and Le Foret in New Orleans, took it upon himself to try and address the problem. The fish extraction needed to be sustainable and the way he saw it happening in Tsukiji simply wasn’t. It was at this point that Chris began developing a tuna substitute called Ahimi (“ahi” is tuna, and “mi” means spirit in Japanese). Ahimi appears like Tuna in colour and even shares a similar texture but is completely plant-based.

To recreate the taste and texture of tuna most accurately Chris took an element that makes up the fish, a high level of umami, and began looking for another way to gain this from plants. His solution, peeled, slow cooked tomato, marinated in a mixture of water, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Not much else is known about the recipe of Chris’ Ahimi, he keeps it tightly under wraps (pun intended). But with this in mind, I hope you feel inspired by Chris’ look at re-inventing sushi with a plant foundation. I wish I could tell you the secret to Chris’s Ahimi, but that just wouldn’t be true. Instead, here is a recipe that I can guide you through, with products and process, to satisfy your plant-based sushi needs.

You will need to wash the vegetables and have them rinsed and cut. The aim of this whole recipe is to create a refreshing, light and colourful wrap. It’ll have tofu for protein, marinated for more flavour. The marinade is simple, all you will need is Tamari, maple syrup, and Erbology Organic Hemp Seed Oil. A lot of people do not like tofu or tempeh plain, I do not blame them. I love these plant-based protein alternatives because they absorb and retain flavours so well. This is my go-to marinade, I hope you can see why.

For veggies, I use red pepper, cucumbers, radishes and either salad leaves or baby spinach. Again, you can use anything here. In fact, nori is something great to have on hand. You can combine miscellaneous veggies and a protein for a quick and complete meal.

Tamari vs. soy sauce

You may see Tamari popping up on recipes or on store shelves. A lot of us are jumping on the bandwagon, and for good reason. Tamari and soy sauce are quite different but can be used almost interchangeably to add a savoury, umami flavour to your dishes. While soy sauce is traditionally Chinese, Tamari is Japanese. It’s a byproduct of soybeans that is thicker, less salty and contains less gluten (or zero gluten) than soy sauce.

Wait a minute, isn’t soy sauce made from soybeans? The name definitely gives it away. Yes, both are derived from fermented soybeans but the process and by-products of the two are different. We will not get into the nitty-gritty, but the more important thing to know is that Tamari contains little to zero wheat.  Even if you are not gluten intolerant, try swapping out soy sauce for Tamari, pick and choose to your own preference (1).

Hemp seed oil benefits

Our hemp seed oil comes from cold pressed organic hemp seeds and is rich in omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, as well as vitamin D.

Since our body doesn’t naturally produce the essential fatty acids found in hemp seed oil, we must obtain them from our diet. The oil derived from the hemp seed is one of the most unsaturated oils out of all plants, with  75-80% being polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most health organisations agree that the human body needs a 4:1 or lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Hemp seed oil provides a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which means it is a great source of support for a healthy heart and brain.

The fatty acids in hemp seed oil can also nourish hair follicle and scalp (3,4) and protect the skin. Fatty acids work to keep our skin lipids healthy. Lipids are oils that constitute our skin’s protective barrier function, softening and providing elasticity. The main barrier of our skin is located in the outermost layer known as the stratum corneum. This region consists of corneocytes and the surrounding lipid region. Corneocytes, which compose most of the stratum corneum get regularly replaced through the shedding of the skin membrane and renewal from lower epidermal layers. If these bilayers of our skin are not functioning correctly, the skin becomes more susceptible to irritation, dryness and other skin conditions (5,6).

 

References

  1. 1. Jeong, Stephanie. “What Is Tamari (vs. Soy Sauce)?” Wake the Wolves, 3 Jan. 2015, wakethewolves.com/what-is-tamari-vs-soy-sauce/.

2. Small, Ernest, and David Marcus. “Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America*.” Axonopus Affinis, 2002, hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html.

3. Harvard Health Publishing. “The Truth about Fats: the Good, the Bad, and the in-between – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health Blog, Feb. 2015, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

4. Simopoulos, A P. “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909.

5. Miller, Samantha. “Lipid Formulas, for Dry and Sensitive Skin.” The Naked Chemist, 1 Dec. 2017, thenakedchemist.com/lipid-formulas-dry-and-sensitive-skin/.

6. Bouwstra, Joke A, and Maria Ponec. “The Skin Barrier in Healthy and Diseased State.” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 11 July 2006, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005273606002410.

Ingredients

Marinated tofu
Sushi rice
  • 1 cup sushi rice
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar (if you don’t have rice vinegar, substitute with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp sweetener of your choice and small pinch of salt)
Sushi rolls
  • 1 quarter red pepper
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 3 small radishes
  • 3 fresh salad leaves or fresh baby spinach
  • 3 nori sheets
Typical nutrition per serving
  • Energy (calories) 264 kcal
  • Protein: 7.2g
  • Fat: 2.88g
  • Carbohydrate: 38.81g

Here's how you do it

  1. First, cook the rice by using a 1 ½ : 1 ratio of water to rice. Cook in a rice cooker for 15 minutes or on the stove over medium heat with the lid on.
  2. While the rice is cooking, marinate the sliced tofu by mixing it gently with Tamari sauce, maple syrup and Erbology Organic Hemp Seed Oil. Leave aside for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Julienne all the veggies and put aside.
  4. Once the rice is ready, spread it on a tray to cool it down quickly.
  5. When it’s nearly cool, add the rice vinegar and mix very well. Put aside.
  6. To make a sushi roll, place a nori sheet on a bamboo sushi mat and gently spread cooked sushi rice. Use your fingers to evenly spread the rice. To prevent rice sticking to your hands, first wet your hands with cold water.
  7. Add a small amount (one row) of every veggie and 2-3 slices of marinated tofu.  Roll the bamboo mat over the sushi roll, pressing firmly, to make a more compact roll.
  8. Cut each roll into seven pieces. Serve with Tamari sauce and enjoy!

Tags

  • Gluten-free
  • Japanese cuisine
  • Omega 3
  • Omega 6
  • Organic
  • Sushi
  • Vegan
  • Vitamin D

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