My husband, “a vegan and more” as he likes to call himself, is wild for sushi. Many are the times I’ve sat and sipped miso soup, sake, and hot green tea while he satiates himself on huge platters of the stuff.
I think it is absolutely beautiful. The colors and presentations are beyond reproach. It’s just the death and dying aspect I have issues with.
So, being a huge fan of beets and able to buy them fresh and local this summer, I was trimming some one day when I had an “ah-ha” moment. It suddenly occurred to me that thin translucent slices of beet were reminiscent of raw fish flesh and that, perhaps, if I simmered them in some seaweed brine, they might also have a pleasant taste of the sea. And they did!
For some reason, my taste buds were telling me to go with a Thai-fusion approach, so I created a mayo–more often served in hand rolls than on sushi per se–tingly with typical Thai tastes. As the base, I decided on a sticky coconut rice. The combination of tastes and textures is as delicious as it is beautiful. I’m so excited to share this stunning dish with you!
Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo:
Note: you may have more than you need, but save it for another purpose or for extra dipping, as working with smaller amounts is a little tedious in the measuring department. Also, I refrigerated my sushi for a few hours before serving, which is why it turned pink. It starts out more of a pale creamy color with flecks of green.
3 tablespoons vegan mayo
1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce
1 teaspoon vegan fish sauce
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (about a 3/4-inch piece peeled and grated)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Coconut Sticky Rice:
1 cup jasmine rice
1-15 ounce can thick coconut milk (not the sweet “Cream of Coconut)
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian fish sauce at Asian markets)
Combine rice, coconut milk, and sea salt in a loosely-covered 2-quart saucepan (I like a non-stick for this) and place over medium-high heat. When mixture comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium or a bare simmer and cook, stirring frequently (or it will scorch on the bottom!), for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice appears moist and sticky. Removed from heat, stir in vegan fish sauce, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, cook beets.
2 cups water
1/4 cup dulse flakes (red seaweed flakes)
Pinch sea salt
Approximately 3 medium beets, peeled, and thinly sliced into whatever shape/size you desire to sit nicely atop their rice bases (I halved them lengthwise, placed the flat side down, and then thinly sliced them).
In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together water, dulse flakes, and sea salt. Add beets, cover loosely, and place over medium-high heat. Simmer gently, reducing heat if necessary, just until beets are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, but avoid rinsing. Some of the dulse may adhere to a few of the slices and, if so, just brush off with your fingers rather than rinsing. Let cool to room temperature.
Scoop up palm-size balls of rice (about 1/12 of the total amount) and squeeze firmly in your palm, shaping into a “log” about 2 1/2 inches long and about 3/4 to 1-inch tall. Place on a work surface, spread with about 1/2 teaspoon of the Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo, and top with beets, however many slices cover the top nicely. I like to slightly overlap 3 small slices so that the sushi can be eaten in several bites. Transfer to a serving platter or plates. Repeat with remaining ingredients and garnish platter or plates as desired.
Whatever you have and/or think would be pretty is what you should use! I used dabs of spinach pesto because green is so pretty with the color of the beets (but dabs of a mint or cilantro chutney or mint/cilantro oil squeezed into decorative lines would be nice too), cilantro sprigs (but Thai basil or mint would be lovely), and cashews (though chopped peanuts would be appropriate too).