Quinoa. It started popping up all over appetizer and salad menus about 3 years ago. But I first came in contact with it six years ago because a Peruvian doctor at my mother's practice told her it was a delicious super food. That's when my mom started making it at home. Of course, my Korean mother pronounced it with a Korean twang, so I was afraid to say the word for a while. (Mom, don't get mad)
Anyway, now that it's ubiquitous, I eat it constantly. Being Asian, I also eat a lot of rice. So the idea dawned on me to make Japanese curry and serve it over quinoa instead of rice. I have to tell you, it's lacking. Rice has a very specific chewy texture that I call the bounce-back factor. It kind of makes it feel like your teeth are bouncing off the rice grains. I know I sound crazy, but it's a thing.
After that failed quinoa attempt, I didn't try to substitute quinoa for rice again. Clearly, it was a traumatic experience.
However, I recently came upon some quinoa sushi handrolls at Sushi Samba. The rolls are not wrapped in seaweed, but rather, in soy paper. I don't love the soy paper, but then again, if you are going to buy a quinoa handroll, you are likely not looking for a classic handroll.
The health nut in me was overjoyed by the opportunity to have a healthier hand roll. Eat rolls, don't get rolls. I asked my dietician friend Jason Machowsky what he thought, since frankly I didn't want to give you all a recipe that wasn't as healthy as I thought.
Quinoa is a great grain! It's has one of the highest protein contents per serving of all the grains. It is a great source of fiber, some B-vitamins and a number of essential minerals. Despite its high nutrient content, quinoa also has a fair number of calories, with about 200 calories per cooked cup (the size of your fist). A little quinoa can go a long way.
So now I can encourage you to make your own quinoa sushi handrolls and eat them too. If you don't want to, head to Sushi Samba (yes, I know it was in Sex and the City and people think it's just a scene. But I was pleasantly surprised. Hopefully, you will be, too.)
Now, as for the cooking, you can find pre-made eel sauce at most Asian markets, but I believe in making it from scratch. That said, if you want some shortcuts, just buy the pre-made eel, already sauced up.
Eel and Avocado Quinoa Hand Roll Recipe
• 2 slices freshwater eel, cooked (approximately 1.4 oz.)
• 0.2 oz. eel sauce (recipe below)
• 2 slices avocado, ripe/freshly sliced (approximately 0.7 oz.)
• 1.2 oz. red quinoa, cooked
• 1 piece soy paper (half cut)
EEL SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
• 2 tbsp. cornstarch
Heat soy sauce, sugar and mirin in a small saucepan over medium. Stir
until liquid is reduced to about 3/4 cup, add cornstarch until sauce thickens and
• 1 cup red quinoa (100% organic)
• 2 cups water
Heat water with quinoa in a medium sized pan. Cover and keep heat on
high until water is boiling, then turn heat to medium until water is absorbed. Total
boiling time is roughly 15 minutes.
1. Prepare to cut eel. Defrost the eel in its vacuum pack. Cut the eel in half lengthwise. Cut the cucumber into a piece that measures 1/8 - ¼ inch wide (sushi style).
2. Prepare avocado by cutting in half lengthwise. Twist the two halves until they separate. Cut the half into quarters. Cut off the ends, remove the skin and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch slices. Set the slices aside.
(You can include whatever else you'd like -- scallion, carrot, zucchini, radish, magical jumping beans, butterbeer... etc. -- to personalize your hand roll.)
3. Tear or cut the soy paper sheets in half. Hold a ½ sheet of soy paper with one side down in the palm of one hand.
4. Press quinoa into soy paper. Moisten your other hand with a little water and ball up the 1.2 oz. of prepared quinoa. Press it into the left side of the soy paper.
5. Lay vegetable filling and eel alongside quinoa. Tightly wrap the opposite right-hand edge around, using a folding and tucking method to create a cone shape with the filling on the inside.
6. Use a dab of quinoa on the corner to secure the inside edge of the soy paper to the outside of the cone.
7. Place on plate & garnish.