“Futomaki” roll sushi 太巻き

japanese cake

For the New Year’s soup, I usually make mochi kinchaku 餅巾着 or square mochi encased in deep fried tofu pouch or abura-age 油揚げ and tie it off with kanpyou かんぴょう. Since I had extra kanpyou, I decided to make a rolled sushi or “futomaki” 太巻き. Futomaki is a fat roll as compared to “hosomaki” 細巻き which is a thin roll. Futomaki uses a whole sheet of nori instead of a half sheet used for hosomaki.

The regular futomaki roll uses only one whole sheet of nori which is rolled with the rice side in. The version I did here was shown to me by a sushi chef, Hajime はじめ, who worked at a long defunct Japanese restaurant “Mikado” in Tenley town which we frequented in the early years after we moved to DC. Hajime told me that when he makes futomaki in a sushi bar, he first makes an in-side-out roll or uramaki 裏巻き and then wraps it with an additional nori sheet. He said this makes the roll more substantial and sets it apart from homemade rolls. So, I am following his suggestion here.

What should be included in the center of futomaki rolls is debatable but the must-have items include an omelet, seasoned kanpyou and shiitake mushroom. Vinegared ginger is also a usual item and traditionally red ginger or beni-shouga 紅ショウガ is used but I used “gari” or the kind which is usually served at a sushi bar. Other items may include some kind of protein such as seasoned chikuwa 竹輪 fish cake strips or grilled anago 穴子. Many more modern variations exist including using cooked meat (either pork, beef, chicken, or even Spam – not junk email but Hormel’s mystery meat which is called a “luncheon meat”, obviously an euphemism, in Japan for some reason). There is pink (artificially dyed) and sweet (almost pure sugar) fish meat product called “sakura denbu”  さくらでんぶ, which may be also used (not by me for sure). For greens, I often used pickled cucumber (kasu zuke) but this time I used cooked baby spinach.

Kanpyou: Kanpyou comes dried (sometimes, dried and frozen). I washed it in running cold water. I then rubbed it with Kosher salt in my hands. After washing away the salt, I soaked it in cold water over night in the refrigerator (or several hours at room temperature). If I am going to use it to tie off something, which will be later be further cooked, I do not cook the kanpyou. For a sushi roll however, I simmered it in just enough water to cover with a lid on for 10-20 minutes and seasoned it with mirin and soy sauce. I simmered it until the liquid had almost completely evaporated (another 20 minutes) and let it cool down. I then wrung out the excess liquid.

Shiitake mushroom: You must use dried mushroom, which has more “umami” 旨味 than fresh ones. For sushi roll or scattered sushi or chirashi-zushi ちらし寿司, you need to use dried shiitake. Dried whole mushrooms need to be redydrated in cold water over night or warm water with a pinch of sugar for several hours. After removing the stem, I sliced it thinly. I cooked the sliced re-hydrated mushroom in the soaking liquid for 10-20 minutes and again seasoned it with mirin and soy sauce, simmered it to reduce the liquid to almost nothing, and let it cool. You could also get pre-sliced dried shiitake mushroom, which is a bit more convenient.

Japanese omelet: This is made exactly like a dashimaki だし巻き and then I cut into long strips appropriate for a sushi roll.

Ginger: I just used vinegared ginger root like you’ll see ar a sushi bar. I just squeezed out the excess liquid and cut it into strips.

Spinach: I put baby spinach in a dry wok on medium heat with a lid. I turned the partially cooked spinach over a few times until it was completely wilted and seaseon it with salt. I let it cool and squeezed out the excess moisture.

After all these preps were done, I just arranged everythig on a plate (image below #1). I also arranged everything I needed to make a sushi roll, including the sushi vinegar (I could make it from rice vinegar but I ususally use bottled sushi vinegar), “hangiri” or wooden bowl to make sushi rice (#2 right upper corner), nori sheets and sushi mat (#2).

My wife made fresh rice perfectly (slightly dry) and I could use a good amount of sushi vinegar.  She also fanned the rice while I mixed in the vinegar. I let it stand for 5-10 minutes. I placed the nori sheet with a long axis vertically and spread it with sushi rice (3#). I moistened my hands with slightly vinegared water to prevent the rice from sticking to my hand.

I ususally use a moistened tea towel to make uramaki but, somehow, we could not find it this time. So I used a plastic wrap to cover the rice side (#4). After flipping it over, I placed all the ingredients on the edge closest to me (#5) and started rolling (#6) with the help of a sushi mat and plastic wrap.

As the rice surface was about to meet the nori sheet, I grabbed the edge of the plastic wrap and lifted it as I was rolling so that the wrap will not be rolled into the sushi roll (Below image #1). Now I have an inside-out roll wrapped in plastic wrap (below image #2). I removed the plastic wrap (below image #3) and place the roll on another nori sheet and rolled it to cover (image below #4).

Here is the end product with both ends already cut off (#5, the ends were a nice snack for my wife and I). With a sharp thin blade, moistened with vinegared water, I sliced the roll (above image #6).

I recruited my wife as a photographer but she complained that I did not pause at the crucial moments for her to take good pictures. In any case, this was a shime dish on a weekend evening. This combination of sushi rice, nori, shiitake, kanpyou and omelet is somehow very comforting and satisfying. I also made a lunch box from the left over for the next day.

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