Did you know that there usually no eel in eel sauce? Eel sauce is a sweet, salty, and tangy condiment that accompanies sushi. Sushi is becoming popular in the Caribbean, and even the more squeamish diners are getting into the sushi craze. Yes, I know what year this is, but you see the word sushi was always associated with a jiggly piece of raw fish, and while islanders do consume fish, they never eat it raw, contrary to popular belief. When I was introduced to trendy sushi bars, I discovered the flavorful seaweed salads, the edamame, sweet potato rolls, vegan rolls stuffed with sweet mangoes, mildly seasoned rice, and chewy nori seaweed that tied everything together. What if we used Caribbean veggies and fruit to make sushi? Crunchy, high-calcium baby okra, soft, sweet boiled ripe plantain, the crisp apple flavor of christophenes, creamy Jamaican ackees? Why not make tempura tofu with freshly grated coconut in the batter, pick up in-season mangoes with a firm texture and a bold flavor? Finally, punish or please your taste buds with some Scotch bonnet peppers. Changing ingredients around can create exciting flavors and new memories.
- 5 nori sheets 1 cup (205 g)
- cooked and chilled sushi rice
- 2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
- Half a 19-ounce (540 g) can Jamaican ackee, drained and patted dry
- 2 teaspoons Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (page 27)
- 5 okras pods, sliced lengthwise in two strips
- ½ red bell pepper, cut into 10 slices
- ½ christophene (chayote), cut into 10 thin strips
- 1 firm ripe plantain, boiled and cut into 10 strips
- 1 avocado, cut into 10 slices, optional
- 1 small carrot, cut in 10 thin strips
Tamarind “Eel” Sauce
- ¼ cup (60 ml) mirin
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- Wasabi paste
- pickled ginger
- pomegranate seeds
- toasted coconut flakes
- To make the sushi rolls, place a sheet of nori on a sushi mat and spoon about one fifth of the rice on top. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the ackee and jerk paste, and cook gently for 3 minutes. Note that the ackee is very delicate and will turn into mush with too much manipulation. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
3. To make the rolls be creative, the key is to mix and match veggies and not overpack them with rice. You have 10 slices of each vegetable, so use 2 slices per roll. Arrange 2 pieces each of okra, bell pepper, christophene, plantain, and optional avocado lengthwise along the longer side facing you. Spoon on one fifth of the cooled jerk-ackee mixture and start rolling the sushi, pushing it away from you and slightly compressing the roll as it gets more complete. Do not roll the sushi too loose or the fillings will fall out! Place the completed roll on the plate and repeat this process with the other four nori sheets. Chill completed rolls for a minimum of 30 minutes.
4. To make the “eel” sauce, combine the mirin, soy sauce, tamarind paste, sugar, sriracha, and garlic in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to boil over medium-heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until slightly thick.
5. To serve, cut the sushi just before serving to ensure the freshest bite. Cut each roll into 6 pieces with a wet sharp knife. Arrange a platter with cut rolls, with the end pieces cut face up. Drizzle with the “eel” sauce and add the garnishes; you can bottle the eel sauce in a squeezable bottle with a thin nozzle to make the drizzling easier.