By Aine Carlin | July 19, 2011

Photo: Aine Carlin

Truth be told I am often overwhelmed at sushi restaurants and end up ordering way more than I could possibly eat in one sitting. But there are always a few dishes that remain in my top five Japanese eats and therefore get ordered time and again.

I have one ultimate sushi restaurant that will remain nameless. Okay I’ll you a couple of clues. It’s located in Chicago (specifically Bucktown) and the dictionary definition of its name means ‘when the land meets the sea’. You get me?

Photo: Aine Carlin

It was here I first sampled spicy miso and was so struck by its sheer awesomeness that I just had to find a way of recreating it in my own home. The rolls, on the other hand, are an amalgamation of many of my revered foods crammed into the most versatile rice on the planet and the greatest sea vegetable I know of – nori. Yum and yum!

This then, is the tailored-to-my-own-needs Japanese designer dinner that I lovingly make knowing that my beloved Chicago is several thousand miles away. Sniff. It’s a way of soothing my woes but also rejoicing in the magnificent diversity of food and people in the world.

Alright, so it may not be the real deal, authentic Japanese cuisine you can buy in some of the sublime eateries out there but for a home grown (cooked? Constructed?) vegan effort it ain’t half bad.

Photo: Aine Carlin

For Miso Soup:
  • 2 heaped tbsp white miso paste
  • 150g firm tofu
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
  • Salt
For Vegan Sushi Rolls:
  • 3 nori sheets
  • 1 cup sushi rice
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3 tsp umeboshi plum paste
  • 2 tbsp sushi rice seasoning
  • sushi rolling mat
  • wasabi
  • soy sauce


To Make Miso Soup:

1. Heat a small amount of oil in a large pan.

2. Finely slice the spring onions and jalapeños. Add to pan and gently saute for a few minutes - do not allow to color!
Dice tofu into small pieces. Add to pan, season with salt and cook for a minute or two.

3. Stir in miso paste. Add a full kettle (approx 8-10 cups) of boiling water. Turn heat down - don't let it boil. Encourage the paste to dissolve by frequently stirring. Taste and season if necessary.

4. Allow to cool and when it is drinking temperature serve in small bowls. I recommend a using a proper Asian soup spoon.

To Make Vegan Sushi Rolls:

1. First rinse the rice and then soak in 1 1/2 cups of water for 30mins. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for 10mins. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out to allow it to cool.

2. Peel, de-seed the cucumber and slice into thin strips (as long as the nori sheet if possible). Finely slice the yellow pepper and the avocado - spritz a little lemon or lime on the avocado as it brown otherwise and affect the presentation of the rolls.

3. When the sushi rice is sufficiently cooled pour over the sushi rice seasoning and mix thoroughly with a spatula.
Place the nori sheet on the rolling mat. Spread out a third of the rice over the nori sheet leaving 1cm or so gap at the top of the sheet. Make a indent half way up the rice and spread over 1 tsp of the umeboshi plum paste. At the bottom of the sheet (the end closest to you) place a third of the sliced cucumber followed by the avocado (which can be placed over the umeboshi paste) and then the yellow pepper.

4. Don't overfill and don't worry if some rolls are better than others. Using the mat tightly roll the sheet using your fingers to tuck in the filling. Place the sushi roll on a wooden chopping board ensuring the join is underneath.

A good tip for slicing the sushi is to fill a tall glass with water and wet your knife (which should be sharp!) between each slice. Try, as best as you can, to cut medium sized slices for ease of eating. I also like to mix my wasabi into my soy sauce before dipping - so yum!

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