While everyone is busy planning and making holiday meals and baked goods, I decided to get a head start on Japanese New Year special meals.
I know it sounds crazy since it’s not even Christmas yet! But in Japan we don’t generally get together with family and relatives for Christmas, but instead we get together on New Years Day or the first few days of New Years.
I was actually surprised to receive many requests for traditional New Years food recipes from the readers because I was never been a big fan of Osechi Ryori (Traditional Japanese New Years Meal, お節料理) while growing up in Japan. I only have a few favorite dishes like Sweet Rolled Omelet (Datemaki 伊達巻) and Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Candied Chestnuts (Kurikinton 栗きんとん) but I mostly look forward to my mom’s Saikyo Miso O-zoni (Kyoto-style shiro miso soup for New Years 西京味噌のお雑煮).
Since Christmas or New Year’s Eve is not here yet, I decided to share these Cucumber Wrapped Sushi that could be served as appetizer for your holiday party or any get together. This type of sushi is called Gunkan or Gunkan Maki in Japanese.
Gunkan (軍艦) meas “battleship” in Japanese, and the name comes from its oval shape. Typically, gunkan sushi are wrapped around with nori seaweed and has toppings like salmon roe (ikura), sea urchin (uni), and broiled eel (unagi) on them. But today I used thinly sliced cucumber to wrap around.
Once rice (or sushi rice) is cooked, you can quickly assemble the sushi right before you serve. If you don’t eat raw fish, you can substitute with smoked salmon or simply create your own!
Making sushi rolls like California Rolls may take a bit of practice, but this gunkan sushi is very easy to make. If you like other pretty sushi, you might be interested in Temari Sushi (picture below) as well. I hope you try making sushi this holiday season!
- 2 Japanese/Persian/English cucumbers
- 3-4 cups sushi rice (vinegared rice) or regular Japanese steamed rice. (Read How To Make Sushi Rice).
- 4 oz Sashimi grade salmon
- 4 oz Sashimi grade yellowtail
- 4 oz Sashimi grade tuna
- 4 Tbsp. salmon roe
- 10 shrimp (amaebi)
- 10 shiso leaves
- 1 scallion
- 1 lemon
- Daikon radish sprouts (Kaiware Daikon) for garnish
- 1 round cookie cutter (I used one with 1¾ inch (4.5 cm) diameter)
- Slice the cucumber with peeler to make long thin strips.
- Place shiso leaves on a serving platter and put the cookie cutter on top of a shiso leaf. Stuff sushi rice into the cookie cutter about half way and remove the cutter gently. Roll the sushi cylinder with one strip of cucumber slice to measure the circumference of the circle.
- Make slits at the end of cucumber slice with knife as you see below. Now you can interlock the strip around the rice.
- Fill in the cucumber wrapped sushi with your favorite toppings. Here I diced tuna and lightly marinade the tuna with scallion, soy sauce and sesame oil. Place the tuna mixture in the cucumber cup.
- For shrimp (amaebi), I place a couple pieces from outer edges to center in the cucumber cup, so it looks like a flower.
- Slice the sashimi-grade fish perpendicular to the muscle (the white line you see in the fish) and place a few slices in the cucumber cup.
- Garnish with lemon and Daikon radish sprouts. Serve immediately.