Matcha Sushi Balls

Sushi rice balls or temari are easily becoming my new favorite tea meal. These colorful rice bites are a twist on ordinary cut sushi rolls, simpler to make (no sushi mat required!) and with an added touch of artistic flair. I love that you can make them using leftover tidbits of this and that, whatever you have on hand in the fridge. Like dim sum or a tea sandwich, they are delightful little delicacies, ideally served with a soothing cup of Japanese tea.

Sushi balls can be made with host of pre-prepped ingredients like lunch meats, cocktail shrimp, or even thinly sliced sushi grade fish. Here, I’ve used smoked salmon, which is easy to find and enhances the rich umami taste of the matcha flavored rice. Eaten together this way, you can taste the best of flavors from land and sea.

For vegetarian variations, you’ll want to showcase the beauty of your produce as much as possible. A cluster of carefully sliced green onions, thin pieces of ripe avocado, or vibrant orange carrot cut-outs add flavor and visual flair to your sushi game. Even Western ingredients like cheese, capers, and sliced olives make pretty embellishments.Above all, remember that creativity is key when making temari sushi. Try selecting colorful ingredients that are easily molded around the rice ball, not too bulky or too large. If you like your sushi more on the traditional side, you can nix the matcha power and make the rice balls plain, seasoned simply with sweetened rice vinegar. These crafty homemade sushi are ideal for parties, bento lunches, or even a romantic dinner. Serve them with emerald green gyokuro, grassy sencha, or caffeine-free soba cha and your artful Japanese tea meal is complete.
Matcha Sushi Balls

Makes 20 rice balls. 

Ingredients:

{Seasoned Rice}

2 cups sushi rice

3 cups water

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 1/2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp matcha

{Toppings}

a few slices of smoked salmon

capers

furikake

avocado

masago or caviar

cocktail shrimp, halved down the spine

black sesame seeds

Equipment:

rice cooker or medium pot with cover

small pot

small sifter

wooden spoon

plastic wrap, a piece the size of a sheet of paper

small bowl of cold water

large plate or baking sheet

2 Tbsp cookie dough scoop

sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters

Directions:

1.)  Place the rice in the pot, then wash it several times until the water runs clear. Drain off the water from the rice, then add the 3 cups of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, then let the rice cook for 20 minutes on a low simmer until all the water is absorbed.

2.)  While the rice is cooking, prepare the seasoned vinegar. Warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

3.)  When the rice has absorbed all the water, let it sit for 5 minutes, then add the sweet vinegar seasoning. Sift the matcha over the hot rice, then gently incorporate it with the wooden spoon.

4.)  To make the rice balls, dip the ice cream scoop into a bowl of cold water, then scoop out the seasoned rice onto a large plate or baking sheet. For the sushi balls to all be the same size, pack the rice into the scoop and level it off.

5.)  Place the toppings on each rice ball. Use a sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters to cut the toppings into pretty shapes. The toppings you add at this point will end up lying flush against the surface of the rice ball. Shape the rice balls by placing one in the center of a piece of plastic wrap lightly damped with water. Use the plastic wrap to mold the topping against the rice ball, using your hand to create a smooth surface.6.)  Remove the rice ball from the plastic wrap and place on a serving platter. At this point, you can finish the temari with delicate finishes like capers, masago, furikake, or sesame seeds. Repeat steps 4-6 to create 20 sushi balls…enjoy!

Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls

For me, the best of summertime eating always involves making plenty of spring rolls.  In hot weather, there’s nothing better than enjoying a light, fresh meal that won’t leave you feeling heavy or guilty.

This Matcha Monday, I’ve created Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls with a savory Matcha Dipping Sauce.  A few weeks ago, I created a recipe for Rainbow Spring Rolls served with an oolong tea-based Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce.  Today’s recipe highlights the umami flavors of matcha green tea in another spring roll recipe.  Where my oolong dipping sauce is fruity and bright, today’s matcha dipping sauce is earthy and rich.

When you think of smoked salmon you might be thinking about bagels or tea sandwiches, but it’s actually perfect for using in spring rolls too.  With its brilliant orangey-pink color and salty flavor, it can transform your everyday spring roll into a unique delicacy.  An added bonus is that it’s ready to use straight out of the package.  In today’s recipe, smoked salmon adds savory richness the same way that fish sauce does when you make Vietnamese Spring Rolls the traditional way.

What I love most about these Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls is their texture.  When you bite into these rolls, you’ll sink your teeth into a variety of soft textures first.  The rice wrapper, mung bean noodles, and salmon give the rolls a tender, bouncy bite.  After you’ve gotten through the softer layers, you’ll reach the thin, snappy stalks of haricot vert, otherwise known as French string beans.  These stalky, bright green veggies basically taste like less-starchy green beans. Here, they add an unexpected fresh crunch to the rolls and help to balance out the saltiness of the smoked salmon.

If you want to mix the dipping sauce up using proper culinary technique, you’d want to drizzle the olive oil into the other ingredients slowly, using a wire whisk.  The lazy way is throw all the ingredients into a jam jar and shake away.  The dipping sauce won’t be as thick and emulsified as if you had done it the correct way, but if fast and easy is the name of the game (hey, it’s Monday) this is the way to go.  Any fan of smoked salmon will love these spring rolls.  Feel free to play around with the proportions of the dipping sauce to make sure it’s just the right balance of flavors to suit your palette.  The sauce should be light, bright, and slightly thick, just like a good cup of matcha is.

Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls with Matcha Dipping Sauce

Makes 16 spring rolls.

Ingredients:

{Spring Rolls}

8 oz.smoked salmon, sliced

4 oz. mung bean noodles

8 oz. haricot vert, rough edges trimmed

16 large basil leaves

16 spring roll wrappers

{Matcha Dipping Sauce}

2 Tbsp olive oil

few drops sesame oil

juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp mirin

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 Tsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp water

1 tsp matcha powder

1/4 tsp salt

cracked black pepper to taste

Equipment:

work surface

large casserole or deep, large dish

medium pot

medium bowl with ice-cold water

wire mesh sieve

strainer

small bowl and whisk or jam jar

Directions:

1.)  Fill a medium pot with water, then bring to a full boil.  Boil the noodles for 2 minutes, then remove from hot water with wire mesh sieve.  Place in strainer, rinse with cold water, and set aside.  Blanch the haricot vert by throwing them into the same boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove the haricot vert with a wire mesh sieve, then plunge into another bowl filled with ice-cold water.  Drain the haricot vert and set aside.

2.)  Fill a large casserole or deep, large dish with about 1″ of warm water.  Submerge 1 spring roll wrapper in the water completely, wait for it to soften for about 10 seconds, then place the sheet on a clean work surface.

3.)  Stack 3-4 stalks of haricot vert in the lower 1/3 section of each sheet, towards the center. Add some mung bean noodles on top of the haricot vert, then top with a piece of smoked salmon and one basil leaf.  Roll up spring roll and fold right and left sides of the wrapper in towards the center of the roll.  Continue rolling upwards (away from you) until you get a completed roll. If you prefer visuals, please check out Andrea Nguyen’s instructions on how to wrap rice paper rolls.  Repeat this step for the rest of the 15 rolls.

4.)  In a small bowl, mix all of the dipping sauce ingredients together, except the olive oil.  Use whisk to stir the ingredients together, then gradually add the olive oil in a stream.  Alternatively, throw all the sauce ingredients in a jam jar and shake well.  Serve the dipping sauce along with the rolls.