Easy-to-make vegan sushi in tofu pouch “inarizushi”, perfect for packing in lunch box bento!
When you hear “sushi,” a lot of people picture in their mind “nigiri-zushi” (a piece of fish on small rice ball) or “maki-zushi” (rolls with seaweed), but there are actually so many kinds of sushi! Inarizushi is a kind of sushi that traditionally contains only vegetables and because of that, it’s known as the cheapest or everyday kind of sushi (as opposed to as a feast for a special occasion).
Since inarizushi doesn’t contain raw fish and sushi rice is packed in fried tofu pouches (which prevents the rice from falling apart), people like to take it out for lunch in a bento box. I remember growing up, my mother used to buy a box of inarizushi for lunch on weekends, and it was my favorite kind of lunch!
You will find inarizushi at a refrigerated section of any supermarket, but contrary to the fact that the sushi doesn’t contain any fish, store-bought inarizushi is unfortunately not vegan (or vegetarian) because you can assume that the dashi stock used to make it contains bonito. The flip side is, you only need to use plant-based dashi stock and can easily make inarizushi vegan at home:)
Regular inarizushi is just plain sushi rice packed in fried tofu pouches, but for this recipe, I’m putting some vegetables in to make it “gomoku-zushi.”
There are 3 steps to making today’s dish, and the first step is to cook the vegetables – lotus root, carrot and shiitake mushrooms – to mix into rice.
Take one section (about 100g) of lotus root and wash thoroughly using a brush. If you don’t have a washing brush or you want the lotus root to look really white, you can use a peeler to peel, but I recommend not peeling as the outer layer contains rich nutrients!
After washing, slice the lotus root, then dice into small pieces.
Take half a carrot and dice into small pieces.
Take 3 softened dry shiitake mushrooms from vegan dashi stock and dice into small pieces.
Heat 1/2 Tbsp rice bran oil in a pan and sautée the vegetables lightly. Add 1 cup of vegan dashi stock, 1 Tbsp amazake concentrate and 2 Tbsp soy sauce.
Place a lid that’s smaller than the actual lid. This is a Japanese cooking technique called “otoshibuta” which means dropped lid. The lid presses down the ingredients and creates an air-tight-like environment so that the ingredients get cooked evenly with minimum liquid. Cook on low heat until most of the liquid is gone then set aside to cool.
The second step is the cook the tofu pouches. For today, I bought aburaage (fried tofu pouch) that’s already cut and opened like pouches, but if you buy regular aburaage, just cut each piece into half then separate the two layers gently so that the inside opens up and becomes like a pouch.
Boil tofu pouches for 3 min then drain.
Place the tofu pouches in a pot and add 1 cup vegan dashi stock, 4 Tbsp amazake concentrate and 2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce. Place a small lid like you did for the vegetables or you can use alumni foil with holes as a lid like I’m doing here.
Cook on low heat for 7 min. Flip the pouches and cook on low heat again until most of the liquid is gone then set aside to cool.
The third step is to prepare sushi rice. For making sushi, rice is mixed with vinegar, sugar and salt. In the old days, this was for a preservation purpose but now the sourness with a hint of sweetness is what defines the taste of sushi.
In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tsp amazake concentrate and 1/2 tsp salt. Add to two bowls of cooked rice and stir well like you are fluffing up the rice with air. You can use white rice or brown rice (like I’m using here) but make sure to use short, sticky rice (preferably Japanese rice) and not long, dry rice like jasmine or basmati. Also, make sure that rice is piping hot when you add the vinegar mixture. If the rice is cold or not warm enough, the excess liquid (vinegar) will not evaporate and will make the rice soggy.
Add 2-3 Tbsp of the cooked vegetables and roasted white sesame seeds to the rice. Stir well.
To pack rice into tofu pouches, make small cylinder shaped rice balls then put each rice ball into the pouch. Wrap it up for a closed inarizushi and tuck the edges in for an open inarizushi.
Inarizushi is perfect for bento as well as a rice dish for a home party. It might feel a bit strange to taste sweetness on rice as a savory dish at first, but once you taste one piece, you are sure to come back for more pieces!
Vegan Sushi in Tofu Pouches – Inarizushi
- For vegetables:
- For tofu pouches:
- 10 small fried tofu pouches
- 1 cup vegan dashi stock
- 4 Tbsp amazake concentrate
- 2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
- For sushi rice:
- 2 bowls of cooked white/brown rice (short, sticky kind – preferably Japanese rice)
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp amazake concentrate
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Roasted white sesame seeds – as needed
- Wash the lotus root thoroughly using a brush or peel. Slice the lotus root, then dice into small pieces.
- Dice the carrot into small pieces.
- Dice softened dry shiitake mushrooms and dice into small pieces.
- Heat rice bran oil in a pan and sautée the vegetables lightly. Add other ingredients for vegetables. Place a lid that’s smaller than the actual lid. Cook on low heat until most of the liquid is gone then set aside to cool.
- Boil tofu pouches for 3 min then drain. Place them in a pot and add other ingredients for tofu pouches. Place a lid that’s smaller than the actual lid. Cook on low heat until most of the liquid is gone then set aside to cool.
- In a small bowl mix vinegar, amazake concentrate and salt for sushi rice. Add to cooked rice and stir well like you are fluffing up the rice with air. Add 2-3 Tbsp of the cooked vegetables and roasted white sesame seeds to the rice. Stir well.
- To pack rice into tofu pouches, make small cylinder shaped rice balls then put each rice ball into the pouch. Wrap it up for a closed inarizushi and tuck the edges in for an open inarizushi.