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Growing up in Cairns, Queensland I got to discover truly authentic sushi as a child. Cairns, being one of Japan's most popular tourist destinations, is a great place to discover great Japanese food. As a teenager, I was lucky enough to have a scholarship as an exchange student in a little fishing village in the south of Japan (navigating Japan alone as a 15 year old vegetarian was truly one of the fastest learning curves I've ever been on!), and that's where I realised that the Japanese food I had been eating in Cairns was right on the money. Since leaving Japan and Far North Queensland, it's been a true struggle to find sushi that isn't sub-par, and I've found many people who haven't eaten real sushi have a misguided idea as to what really good sushi should taste like.
To completely contradict my spiel about authentic sushi, I wanted to infuse one of my favourite Middle Eastern dishes into sushi - baba ghanoush (becoming baba ghanoushi - that's baba ghanoush sushi)! Partly because it's fun to say as a combined name and partly because I had a hunch it would work well, I could not be more pleased at how well the pure smokiness of the broiled eggplant provides the perfect creaminess to the sushi's texture that is usually provided by mayonnaise. I love a really smoky baba ghanoush, so be sure to adjust this recipe as you like - just remember that it'll be used as a sauce within the sushi so you really want to pack it with flavour.
The other toppings can be varied as you please, but I think baba ghanoushi is something that everyone should try making as once you try it, it seems like the flavours should have been put together this whole time. I've done some searching, and I can't believe nobody has thought of putting these two together before! Happy nori rolling!
(SMOKY EGGPLANT SUSHI ROLLS)
Makes 8 bite-sized rolls with baba ghanoush left over to pour into your mouth or to double the recipe.
- 2 small - medium eggplants
- Juice of 1.5 lemons
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 4 - 6 drops of liquid smoke (optional but highly recommended)
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of hot paprika
- 1 cup sushi rice (short grain ONLY, do not try to make sushi with plain white/long grain rice)
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon + a pinch of raw sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Sushi ginger
- 2 green onions/shallot chopped into long pieces
- 2 carrots chopped into long, thin pieces
- 1 large avocado
- 2 pieces of nori (edible seaweed used for sushi)
- Place the whole eggplants under a broiler on high for at least 45 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. You want each side to blacken and be sizzling, and as the skin will be discarded, be sure to make sure to blacken it as much as possible - this is where the smokiness of your baba ghanoush comes from.
- Take your sushi rice and rinse THOROUGHLY. Keep agitating and pouring out water until it runs clear, then let sit in a colander for at least 30 minutes. Add into a pot with 1.5 cups of water and let sit for 15 minutes or so, before turning on low heat and covering for 15 minutes (or as package instructions). Allow all the water to be absorbed before taking off the lid and stirring.
- Mix rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl before pouring over the prepared rice. Stir until distributed and sticky and allow to cool.
- Scrape the flesh of the charred eggplants into a food processor, followed by all the baba ghanoush ingredients except for the liquid smoke. Process on high for about 20 seconds, and then taste before adding the liquid smoke if needed (I always recommend it!). Discard the eggplant skins.
- Place a sheet of nori on a bamboo sushi rolling mat, and cover it with your prepared rice to make a layer about 2cm deep, you don't need to fill it to the edges as some of the fillings will be pushed out as you roll. Smother this with baba ghanoush.
- Follow this with your choice of ingredients, I chose green onions, avocado, sushi ginger and carrots and it was heavenly.
- Roll it all up, and cut each sushi roll into 4 slices for eating ease before serving. Serve with more sushi ginger, wasabi and soy sauce or tamari on the side. ENJOY!