go ahead. maki my day.

When I was growing up, we ordered Chinese food from a place around the corner (now closed, sadly) every week. Chinese food will always be a kind of comfort food for me because of that. But once I got a little older, my parents decided it was time to introduce me to the joys of Japanese food.

Like a lot of kids, I was creeped out by the idea of eating raw fish, and I absolutely refused to try it at all. Unfazed, my mother insisted I order (in addition to dumplings and chicken yakitori) kappa maki, or cucumber rolls. Now when I indulge at Japanese restaurants, I usually order fish, but I can still pack away kappa maki by the dozen.

At most Japanese places they have lots of rolls, some of which have been adapted for the American palate (for instance I doubt that the Philadelphia roll, made with lox and cream cheese, is too popular in Japan, and California rolls are relegated to this continent as well). And I am all for innovating on tradition, so I think that’s great. But you know what’s better? Making your own maki at home!

Maki is a great lunch or snack, it’s easy to make, and it’s infinitely customizable. You can make it with cucumbers, of course, or avocado, carrots, mushrooms, eggs, a combination of those or anything else! If you can’t make maki with raw fish for whatever reason, try making it with seared strips of beef and scallions…you won’t regret it.

Kappa maki (for one)

Ingredients

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed

1 sheet of nori

sushi rice (see this post for a recipe) probably about 1.5 cups, cooked

sesame seeds (optional)

soy sauce (for dipping)

Yes, that’s all! Professionals also use a special bamboo mat covered in plastic wrap to help form their rolls, but you can do it just fine without, too.

Step 1) Slice the cucumber into thin strips, the thinner the better. Try to cut out the seedy parts.

Step 2) Lay out a sheet of nori on a flat surface. You want the short side facing you.

Step 3) With wet hands, grab little balls of sushi rice and cover the sheet of nori. Try not to press the rice with too much pressure, just gently move it around so the surface is covered evenly.

Step 4) Line up the cucumber strips in a column a two to three inches from edge of the short side closest you. Sprinkle some sesame seeds along the cucumber if you want to/have sesame seeds.

5) Roll the seaweed around the cucumber. Stop and press the roll firmly around the cucumber, then continue tightly rolling all the way to the end.

6) Seam side down, chop your roll into pieces about an 1-1.5 inches thick.

7) Enjoy your lovely snack!

I really don’t think this is at all difficult to make, and if you mess up one or two, well, it still tastes good! I think the most difficult part is making sure the roll is tight and sticks together properly. My best tip is just to use sushi rice and cook it according to my (or package) instructions, because sushi rice is much stickier than regular rice.

Good luck! And tell me if you come up with any tasty new rolls!

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