Recipe: Sweet potato roll

23 Jan

For a brief second (four hours) leading up to last week’s charity dinner, I thought I would make seven or so different types of low-budget sushi rolls.

Then I put off planning, shopping and cooking until about 4 p.m. Sunday — three hours before we planned to start dinner. And the house was a mess. And I threw out my back (doing laundry, or something).

In revising the menu, it seemed like such a shame to toss out the sushi idea entirely. So the meatier rolls became stir fry, the more work-intensive rolls became a noodle salad, and the simplest, most adaptable, cheapest rolls stayed on. One of the latter options was a tempura snack lifted more or less directly off the menu of our favorite sushi place in town: a nori/seaweed roll with sticky white rice, tempura (lightly battered and fried) sweet potato, cream cheese and fresh basil.

Here’s the recipe, though the description above pretty well covers it:

Sweet potato sushi roll:

1 sweet potato (not a yam; the lighter-color one)

1 box tempura batter mix (available at City Market in the Asian section)

salt, pepper, cayenne pepper (to taste)

neutral oil for frying (peanut, canola, vegetable, etc.)

1 package fresh basil

sticky white rice (only need a little, but it never hurts to make four pounds of the stuff)

nori/seaweed sheets (City Market Asian aisle)

1 block cream cheese


1) Cook rice with water. If you’re using a rice cooker, generally go one knuckle up of water from the level of dry rice. Let the rice cool in a separate bowl for easier rolling. It works best to cook the rice ahead of time.

2) Fill a large soup pot with oil, an inch or two deep. Heat at medium.

3) Peel the sweet potato and slice into sticks, about three inches long and 1 centimeter wide.

4) Prepare the tempura batter according to the directions on the box (usually 4 parts mix to three parts water). Lightly season the batter with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Dip a piece of sweet potato into the batter, coat, shake off the excess. Drop the sweet potato into the oil. Repeat. Try not to overcrowd the pan (you’ll need three or four batches to get through the whole potato). When the fried sweet potatoes turn light brown, remove and drain on paper towels.

5) Once the fried sweet potatoes are cool, you’re ready to roll (heh.).

6) Place one sheet of nori on a sushi-rolling mat (or wax paper) on a cutting board. Put down a layer of rice that doesn’t leave any gaps, and is about 1 inch to 1.5 inches wide. Place one slice of cream cheese on top, and two parts of a halved basil leaf. Line up a few tempura sweet potato pieces.

7) Wet your fingertips with water, and lightly moisten the horizontal edges of the nori. Rolling from the edge closet to you, create a cylinder by rolling away from you and pressing down on the sushi mat. The result should be a sushi log that sticks together.

Slice the log into bite-size pieces. Serve with soy and wasabi, or soy dipping sauce.

Mmm fried things with salt.


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