Although glorified by celebrities and the health conscious, sushi is one of the biggest misconceptions in the world of takeaway treats. Sushi is marketed, and consequently perceived by many, as a healthy fast food alternative. Of course, there’s no denying that sushi is a nutritionally better choice than Maccas, Salsa’s or Schnitz, but your beloved teriyaki chicken and cooked tuna and avo rolls from commercial sushi bars are certainly not ‘clean’, and shouldn’t be eaten daily. Rest assured, there are healthier ways to do sushi. Below I’ve listed some of the things to look out for:
- Sushi rice and mayonnaise
Some sushi restaurants offer brown rice sushi, but they’re far and few in between. We all know that white rice offers very little nutritional value relative to the calories it contains, so you’re far better off opting for brown rice sushi if you’re lucky enough to come across it. Furthermore, all commercial sushi rice is bound with a mayonnaise of some sort, and this is where that lovely creamy texture and mildly sweet flavour comes from. Unless you’re vegan, a little mayonnaise here and there is okay, but the large amount that is mixed through commercial sushi rice and soft fillings like tuna provides unnecessary amounts of saturated fats and refined sugar, and therefore lots of extra calories. Most mayos are also very high in sodium.
- Soy Sauce and pickled ginger
If you’ve ever found yourself super bloated after chowing down a few sushi rolls, soy sauce and pickled ginger are more than likely to blame – these seemingly innocent condiments are jam-packed with sodium! Sushi restaurants tend to only offer full-sodium soy sauce (which is basically liquified salt) in those cute little fish-shaped squeezies, so either use it sparingly or go without it! And try to go easy on the pickled ginger. It is, afterall, supposed to be a mere palate cleanser, not a side dish!
You decided on sushi instead of a McChicken in the food court because it’s mildly healthier, right? So leave the crispy shit alone! I know, it tastes so damn good, but tempura is a fancier word for ‘batter’, so it’s basically flour and oil and is DEEP FRIED. Avoid tempura prawn, chicken and vegetable fillings and go for cleaner options like raw veg, raw salmon, steamed prawn, cooked tuna or plain avo.
The other week, I was brainstorming ways to make my own healthier version of modern sushi, but I still wanted to retain some of its more nutritious properties like nori and raw veg. Made from red seaweed , nori is a great source of fibre, protein, iron, vitamin C which increases the impact of the iron, vitamin A, magnesium, selenium, choline, eicosapentanoic acid, inositol and other B vitamins.
I was craving the texture of silken tofu and crispy carrot and cucumber, and figured that quinoa would make a perfect rice substitute, both in terms of taste, texture and nutrition. Commonly referred to as the “Supergrain of the Future”, quinoa is a complete protein which means it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Quinoa also contains twice as much fibre as most other grains and is rich in iron (keeps blood cells healthy and increases brain function), lysine (essential for tissue growth and repair), magnesium (alleviates migraines, reduces Type II Diabetes and helps with the formation of healthy bones and teeth), riboflavin (vitamin B2 for improved energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells) and powerful antioxidants!
I threw a whole bunch of ingredients together and have done my best to remember the quantities for the purpose of re-writing this post. The great thing about dishes like this is that you can use whatever fresh produce and flavours you feel like at the time. You could even add spices such as cumin and ground coriander seeds to the quinoa for a Moroccan-Japanese fusion! I served my sushi with a wonderful fresh veggie juice made of carrot, cucumber, lemon, ginger and mint. Lemon Quinoa & Sesame-Crusted Tofu ‘Sushi’
Makes 2 ‘sushi’ rolls – serves 1 as a light meal or 2 as a snack
- 1/2 cup cooked organic quinoa
- 100g organic firm tofu, cut into 1cm wide strips
- 2 sheets nori
- Tamari or salt-reduced gluten free soy sauce
- Julienned veggies (I used carrot, capsicum & cucumber)
- 2 tsp sesame seeds, plus extra, to serve
- Fresh chives
- Fresh mint leaves
- A few tbs fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbs binder of choice: clean mayo/Greek yoghurt/cottage cheese/soy mayo (for vegans) or a combination. I used clean homemade mayo.
- pinch of Himalayan sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
- In a small bowl, combine cooled cooked quinoa, binder of choice, salt and lemon juice to taste. Set aside.
- In a dish, coat each tofu strip with tamari, then roll in sesame seeds.
- Heat a little coconut oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the tofu strips and cook on each side until golden and fragrant. When turning the tofu, be careful not to scrape all the sesame seeds off.
- On a clean, dry surface (or a bamboo mat), lay the nori sheets shiny side-down.
- Spread the quinoa in an even horizontal strip over the surface of the nori, to within 1cm of the edges. Add the veggies, chives, mint and tofu on top of the quinoa (see image above).
- Lightly wet the edge of the nori sheet farthest from you (this will enable the seaweed to stick and hold the roll together).
- Starting with the end closest to you, begin rolling the nori sheet away from your body over the ingredients, applying a gentle pressure to ensure a firm roll. Roll to the end.
- Using a sharp wet knife, cut each completed roll into desired pieces. You could also eat them whole like a wrap.
- Sprinkle each piece of ‘sushi’ with extra sesame seeds and serve with a little tamari or low-sodium soy sauce. Yum!
Veggie Detox Quencher: Juice of Carrot, Cucumber, Lemon, Ginger & Mint
Makes 1 large glass of juice
- 500g organic ‘juicing’ carrots or regular carrots, washed thoroughly
- 1 large lebanese cucumber
- 1/2 lemon, or to taste
- 1 handful fresh mint leaves
- 2cm fresh ginger, or to taste
Juice all ingredients in a high-power juicer. Serve over ice and enjoy. I like to stir some of the pulp through my juice so I can get some of the fibre, vitamins and enzymes that are left behind during the juicing process.