One of my favorite things to order when I sit at a sushi bar is a hand roll. In my opinion, it’s the ideal hand-held meal, a solo act that has everything you want elegantly placed inside of a nori cone. I remember the first time I had one (when a friend recommended I order the hand roll of fatty tuna, pickled radish and scallions) at a magazine-editor hangout called Sushi Zen near the now-former CondÃ© Nast office in Times Square. Sushi Zen is a bit of an expense account place, and yet, the sushi was always so exceptional, the fish so pristine, that the eye-roll from the accounting department was well worth it… With the exception of the timeÂ I took a writer there for lunch because I had just assigned him an article about perfume, and he ended up ordering enough raw fish to feed a family of Kodiak bears, ate half of it, then requested to have the rest put in a doggy bag. After that experience, I learned to select my lunch companions more wisely, but always order the hand rolls, which were a thing of beauty.
For some reason I never thought of making hand rolls at home, probably because preparing and cutting raw fish normally feels like something best left to professionals. But then I realized that the fish need not be raw and that opened up a whole new world of hand rolls at home…
With just these basic items from the pantry and crisperâbrown or sushi rice (the best use of a rice cooker…I’ve told you to get one, right?), crisp lettuce, sliced cucumbers, avocado, smoked salmon, and sriracha and toasted sesame seeds for garnishâyou have everything you need for an DIY hand roll. I make them all of the time, especially as an afternoon snack for Belle, who can eat as many of these as my perfume writer friend. The combination of salty, crunchy, smoky and a little spicy is truly addictive (I highly recommend it for tween/teen girls…so healthful and they go ga-ga for them). I love to add a spoonful of miso mayo if I have some on-hand in the fridge (combine a cup of mayo and big spoonful of white or yellow miso in a jar; add a bit of honey and a splash of rice vinegar if you’d like to make it even better); but just a sprinkle of soy sauce, rice vinegar, or ponzu inside the roll will do.
My two tips are:
-Make sure the rice isn’t hot or else it will wilt your roll, a little warm or room temperature (sprinkled with some rice vinegar) is best.
-And try not to overstuff your roll or it might explode. I usually fold one sheet of nori in half, turn it so it’s at an angle, place a few of the fillings down the middle, and then gently wrap it like a baby in bunting.