China Grove

Today was Asian fiesta. Yeah, I know. We have Mexican fiesta nights so I call all my ethnic cooking marathons fiesta night regardless of the ethnicity.

Since I have to cut up many of the same ingredients and use many of the same tools, I might as well make a bunch of different Asian foods at once. We made rice paper rolls (aka summer rolls aka goi cuon), maki rolls, and onigiri. If you’d like to play along at home, here’s what you’ll need:

Nori
Soy Wrappers – you don’t need these really, you can just use nori, but I did use these. They were fun. They are great for people who don’t like the taste of nori.
Sushi rice. I use the brand with the rose on the package, Kukuho.
Brown rice. I have never tried to use this before. I’m not sure how it will turn out.
Avocados. You can never have too many avocados. Even my middle child, who hates anything that looks like it might have once been friendly with a fruit or vegetable, loves avocado.
These are the WRONG wrappers. They worked, but I love prefer the ones made with rice. Read the ingredients. Unfortunately, I have two large packages of these. Darn it, I’ll have to use them all.
Mirin works for everything. One should always have mirin. It is great for cooking. Use some along with salt to season sushi rice. I used ¼ cup today. But I also used 6 cups of dry rice. That’s a lot of sushi rice.
Match-sticked vegetables. I chose carrots and red peppers. But cucumbers are really good too, unless they are too harsh for you. My husband doesn’t digest them well. My mom uses raw zucchini instead of cucumber. I’ve never tried this, just floating that info out for the general good.
Mei fun noodles. These are thin rice noodles. To use, soak in hot water until soft.
Saran wrap is essential when rolling and when using the onigiri molds. A good bamboo mat is very helpful when rolling but I’ve made good sushi without a mat.
Onigiri molds. You can do this without molds, but I have two sets of molds so I use them. It’s helpful to use oil sprayed saran wrap inside the molds.
Rice seasonings. This isn’t a necessity, but it’s so good. I love to roll my onigiri in this.
Thing 2 prefers to roll her onigiri in sesame seeds. She can’t get into the rice seasonings.
Imitation crab sticks. Yum. I could eat this like string cheese.
Fresh basil. I prefer Asian (anise flavored) basil, but we grow Italian basil. Basil is lovely always.
Cooked shrimp. I always buy raw, shell on shrimp. Cook it before you remove the shell. Actually, if you can find shrimp with the head on, cook it and then remove the heads and shell. It will taste completely different. And it won’t be mushy like the cooked shrimp. Yuck!
Sriracha. Everyone needs a bottle of sriracha in their fridge.
Everyone should also have a bottle of hoisin sauce in their fridge.
Crushed peanuts.
Carrots with ranch. You don’t need this, it’s one of the onigiri fillings I made. My son, The Monkey King adores carrots with ranch. You can google traditional onigiri fillings, but we usually use minced Castlevetrano olives or tuna salad. This was an experiment, like the brown rice.
Mashed avocado with a little lime juice and a tiny bit of salt; another onigiri filling.
Imitation crab with sriracha sauce. Another onigiri filling.
Applesauce. This is used for the goi cuon sauce.
Soy sauce and wasabi for the maki rolls, of course.

After setting up all the up all the ingredient and the bamboo mat, I started by making maki rolls; some with nori, some with soy wrappers. I place saran wrap on the bamboo mat, then lay down the nori or the soy wrapper. Add rice down to the last 1″ closest to you. Put your desired filling up about 1″ from the top. Then slowly roll the toward yourself.

I used imitation crab, match-sticked avocado, match-sticked carrots, and match-sticked red peppers as the filling.

The end result is this:

These are before I sliced them. I tried making hand rolls with the soy wrappers but they were ugly. Tasted pretty good though, regardless of the aesthetic. I made a few more after this picture. As I said, when you set out all these ingredients, I tend to make a lot. It’ll keep, as long as you wrap everything individually wrapped in plastic wrap or In a vacuum-sealed package.

Tonight, messing around online, I saw this. Sushi cake?!?! I don’t have to roll It?! No fair. What the deuce. I could have saved myself a ton of time just building my maki rolls by NOT ROLLING THEM!!!! Cheaters.

Next I made rice paper rolls (goi cuon, summer rolls). The filling in these is fresh basil, mei fun noodles, shrimp, match-sticked carrots and red peppers (cucumber and carrots are the most common), and imitation crab. The goi cuon I normally buy has match-sticked cucumber, shrimp, Asian basil, bean sprouts, and thin-sliced pork.

The dipping sauce varies between dining establishments. My favorite is 1 part hoisin, 1 part applesauce, and crushed peanuts. Add srirachi to taste.

I am really bad at rolling these. But here is what I did.

My kids love ongiri. Not just because of the taste. I let the kids make the onigiri. As I said in the ingredients section, We usually use tuna salad or minced castlecetrano olives as fillings. Today I also minced carrots and mixed it with the sushi rice as the outside of the onigiri. The carrots with ranch filling was a huge hit with my son. I love the sriracha and imitation crab filling. I used it for maki rolls and for onigiri.

I used brown rice for some of the maki rolls and the onigiri. In the onigiri, it was futile. It fell apart completely. In the maki rolls, since I rolled them with the rice inside, it worked fine. Aren’t those gorgeous? After forming the onigiri, we roll them in the rice seasoning. I have 3 kinds I like. As I mentioned before, the kids like plain sesame seeds instead of the rice seasonings. And they like the sesame seeds too. They could leave the onigiri plain, but they actually ask for the sesame seeds. Next time I will toast the seeds. It will blow their minds.

We have so many leftovers. The secret is to wrap them in plastic wrap. A Tupperware/Rubbermaid/generic brand container just won’t work. The rice will get dry and hard. Use the saran wrap, you’ll thank me.

So, you will always use less filling than you suspect. I love the end of making onigiri (or maki rolls, or goi cuon) because I have lovely cut veg. After I made all this food, I packed lunches fro Monday and Tuesday (for both me and my husband). The left over shrimp, imitation crab, and all the veg made it into these lunches as salad toppings. The left over rice will be used as part of a stir fry later in the week.

I love Asian fiesta. Ir’s yummy.

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2 thoughts on “China Grove

    • These aren’t spring rolls. Spring rolls are deep fried. Although the wrappers I used are the right ones for spring rolls, no actual vegetables were subjected to deep frying. What I made are summer rolls.
      I love Asian cooking. And my kids love to help with it. They make the onigiri. It does make my kitchen quite the mess as sticky rice ends up everywhere.

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