For my second annual Sushi Bowl party, I decided to put a little more thought into the whole presentation and try to match the theme. Two teams, rolled up in some rice and seaweed, dipped in fermented bean sauce, scoring touchdowns of subtle flavor and texture–that’s how American football works, right? I don’t know, I just cook the food. The teams this year were the San Francisco Red Gold Diggers and the Baltimore Purple Blackbirds–both things that conjure up images of a great battle on the turf, racing to be the first to the 50-yard line, avoiding head injury, and trying to peg each other with an oblong ball–I know, I know, I won’t bore you with the subtleties of the game. Anyway, I figured I would match the sushi with colors of the teams. For the 49ers, it wasn’t that hard, there were many traditional ingredients that were gold (or yellowish) and red (or reddish, I’m including orange here): pickled daikon radish, tuna, pickled ginger, quail egg, various fish roe, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), raw salmon, carrot, shrimp, crab, etc. My problem became finding things that are purple and/or black
out to match the other team, the Ravens. After about a week of thinking, I ruled out simply dying the rice purple with food coloring (that’s cheating), and was unable to track down purple sushi grade fish (and my local sea urchin guy was…I don’t know, let’s say on vacation). I could have given up and just decorated the plate with something purple: eggplant skin, grapes, lavender, but I felt like that was cheating, too. While venturing around Chinatown I found some dried red-leaved shiso (which are actually a nice purple color) labeled “rice seasoning” and was curious, so I bought it. Black was a little easier, black sesame seeds, nori could be dark enough to look black, and something I had heard of, but never cooked with or eaten, black rice (or “forbidden rice” as it was considered a very fine rice reserved for the Emperor only). I researched it a little bit and found out that, when cooked, the black rice turns a deep purple (that’s a bingo!) and had a bit of a nutty taste like brown rice (which isn’t ideal for sushi, because of the subtle flavors, but I could work with it). I also played around with the shiso and realized that when cooked it turned greenish-brown (ew) but when put in cold water turned a nice royal purple. I also noticed that the water used to cook the black rice was a nice deep purple. So I took some sesame seeds and put them in the bowl with the purple water overnight and toasted them in a dry pan–the result was a nice purple sesame seed that kept the color of rice water and the shiso without imposing too strong of a flavor. So that was it, I had my purples, my reds, my blacks and my golds.
So here are some of the pictures of the prepared sushi rolls, mostly the main dish, which includes the red/gold v. purple/black motif I was embracing. We were having a little too much fun watching Beyonce to take too many pictures.
(far left) tuna, carrot and bamboo wrapped with tobiko roe (flying fish eggs)
(inner left) tamagoyaki, daikon, and carrot topped with salmon
(middle-red/yellow) ikura (salmon roe) with raw quail egg
(middle-purple/white) black rice nigiri with raw bay scallop
(inner right) crab, cucumber, avocado, asparagus and black rice in shiso rice with black sesame seeds
(far right) Philadelphia roll with asparagus wrapped in black rice and shiso dyed sesame seeds
(from left to right) Ebi (shrimp) nigiri, toro (fatty tuna) nigiri, sake (salmon) nigiri, tamagoyaki (japanese omelette), hotate (scallop) nigiri
cucumber rolls, tuna rolls, California rolls, avocado rolls, and my failed attempt at a yin-yang roll (half black/half white rice) Just a pile of shrimp rolls, cucumber rolls, veggie rolls, and California rolls
To be honest – I don’t think I will be making black sushi again. I like the rice, don’t get me wrong, but it really overpowered the fish and the other ingredients. I am a big fan of having maybe 2 other flavors in sushi besides the sweet-vinegar of the rice, the salty-umami of the nori, and the sting of the wasabi. The earthy, nutty black rice would probably be better suited in a coconut milk dessert.