I worked for a long time in sushi joints in Colorado. Believe it or not, because of Denver International Airport and rich-people ski towns, the landlocked state has a thriving sushi scene. I used to be a total purist about it. I'd never be caught dead ordering a California roll, let alone its cream cheese-laden cousin, the Philadelphia roll. Eventually, I realized that “fun” is just as important as “fine” when it comes to food, so I sought out to confront my Phillyphobia by crafting one of the finest bites of breakfast sushi you can imagine. Here, the breakfast classic of a bagel and lox transforms into breakfast sushi. A sliver of smoked salmon is anchored to caper-brined sushi rice with a dab of wasabi cream cheese. A dunk in homemade everything bagel seasoning seals the deal. You may be shocked at how good caper-brined sushi rice is. I use it for all my sushi needs, even outside of breakfast.
Everything Bagel Seasoning and Lox Nigiri Sushi
- Yields: Many sushi pieces
- Total Time: 45 minutes
For the Rice
Put the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it under cold running water, rubbing it together with your fingers, until the water runs clear. (It’s helpful to do this over a colored mixing bowl so you can see the water.) Allow the washed rice to drain in the strainer.
Cook the washed rice in a rice cooker with the amount of water specified by your rice cooker. (I used 3 cups of water for this amount.) I’ve never, ever screwed up rice in a rice cooker so long as I cover the rice with water by about an inch. If you don’t have a rice cooker, follow the directions on your rice package.
In measuring cup, combine the caper brine, sugar, and vinegar.
When the rice is done, use a bamboo paddle or spatula to gently remove portions of it from the cooker and spread them out around the inside of the large bowl. Removing it in portions exposes more surface area and allows for more rapid cooling. Once all of the rice is in the bowl, dribble the vinegar mixture onto the paddle while moving it back and forth a few inches above the rice, so as to thinly and evenly distribute all of the seasoned vinegar over all of the rice. Use the paddle to gently break up any chunks of rice in “slicing” motions. When the clumps are broken and cease to re-form, you can be sure that all of the rice has been seasoned. When ready, the rice should glisten and feel warm, but not hot, to the touch.
Wet your hands with water (the rice is very sticky) and, using your hands, gently transfer the rice to a cooler (which keeps it from getting too cold) or to a wooden bowl. Run a clean, lint-free hand towel under warm water until entirely moistened and cover the rice until ready to use, or for up to 2 hours. If you use a cooler, close the lid. If using a wooden bowl, cover with plastic wrap.
For the wasabi cream cheese
Mix the wasabi powder and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until dissolved. Add the cream cheese to the bowl and use a rubber spatula to fully incorporate the wasabi.
For the everything bagel seasoning
Combine all the ingredients for the everything bagel mix in a small pan. Toast until fragrant. Transfer to a small plate to cool.
For the nigiri
Place the warm rice, wasabi cream cheese, seasoning mix, and sliced fish in close proximity. Wet your hands with water. With your dominant hand, grab less than a Ping Pong ball’s worth but a little more than a shooter marble’s worth of rice. Gently squeeze it so it’s about the length and diameter of a fat wine-bottle cork. Too much squeezing makes the rice like clay, too little and it falls apart. (Luckily the recipe above makes enough rice for you and your guests to practice.) Once the rice ball is formed, slide it a bit lower in your palm and hold onto it. Pick up a slice of fish with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant pointer finger (rice ball still clutched) swipe a little wasabi cream cheese onto the fish. Gently press the rice ball onto the cream cheese–smeared fish in your non-dominant hand. Flip the nigiri fish-side up in your non-dominant hand, and gently apply pressure with two fingers of your dominant hand and a cupping motion from your non-dominant hand. Rotate the fish and rice ball 180 degrees and repeat, so as to round off the corners and strongly adhere the fish to the rice ball.
Gently press the top of the fish into the everything bagel mix; it should stick to the surface of the fish.
Place the nigiri on a plate or just eat.
Continue forming nigiri, rewetting your hands as needed to keep the rice from sticking to your hands.