Bowls. They don’t sound very exciting, but hear me out. As the cooks in the family, we’re always attempting to please ALL the people ALL the time, right? Are we crazy? Probably. Especially if we’re making multiple meals at dinner time in an attempt to please everyone. That is exhausting, at a minimum, and I do not recommend it.
This is where ‘bowls’ come in. Bowls – simply and loosely put – a grain with vegetables, protein, and sauce – present limitless flavor options, and give picky eaters who are forever flexing their independence at meal times, the opportunity to customize it to their tastes. Will they try all of the toppings that you present? Probably not, but eventually they will! The toppings are the key though.
Over the years, I have always tried to present a mix of items that include some things I knew my kids will eat and some that I would like them to try. If you are patient and keep it interesting, they just might surprise you! In this recipe, I’ve included many toppings to choose from – you can do the same or pick and choose what your family might like. I chose quick weeknight proteins because they’re easy to have on hand or buy far in advance – but, by all means, go get that sushi-grade fish if you’ve got the time! My personal favorite is from @monahans_seafood.
In all of my years of cooking with kids, I’ve always been so pleasantly surprised and delighted by their love of sushi. This weeknight sushi dinner bowl presents the opportunity to enjoy sushi in a deconstructed way that allows for familiar flavors, but is simple to put together and has minimal clean up.
The other great thing about this bowl? It’s sushi, so it’s not meant to be eaten hot – which means it allows for meal time flexibility as family members are going to and from extracurricular activities. Win-win.
2 c. short grain sushi rice
2 c. water
¼ c. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Avocado, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Carrot ribbons, using vegetable peeler – can enjoy raw or quick pickled version below
Spring onions, finely sliced
Sesame seeds and/or furikake
Extra firm tofu, pressed
Nori, cut into squares or thinly sliced
1 tsp. Soy sauce
1 tsp. Sesame oil
1 tsp. Fresh ginger, grated
Quick-pickled Carrot Ribbons
1 c. carrot ribbons (shave carrots with a vegetable peeler)
½ c. hot water
¼ c. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Salt
A few slices of fresh ginger (optional)
Spicy Mayo Sauce
½ c. mayo
2 Tbsp. sriracha (or to your taste)
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
- To prepare the rice, put it into a fine mesh sieve and let it run under cold water until the water is clear.
- Transfer to a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring water and rice to a boil; reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, leave the lid on and let the rice steam for 20 minutes.
- While the rice is steaming, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk until everything is dissolved.
- When the rice is done steaming, transfer the rice to a large bowl.
- Using a rice paddle or wooden spoon, slice through the rice at a 45 degree angle to break up any lumps, while slowly pouring the sushi vinegar over the rice to distribute evenly.
- Continue to slice, not stir, the rice (stirring squashes the rice grains and makes them mushy), lifting and turning the rice from the outside to the center and allowing the rice to cool to room temperature.
- To keep the rice from drying out, keep it completely covered with a damp cloth and set aside.
- If you are using tofu, you will want to remove it from it’s package and wrap it in a towel and place something heavy on top to press out the liquid. After at least 15 minutes, you can cube the tofu into bite-sized pieces or slice it on the bias ‘sashimi-style’. Add it to a bowl with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of grated ginger to marinate.
- Prepare your vegetables as indicated above in the ingredient list – slicing and chopping – and place them onto a sheet pan in individual piles (this allows you to put everything on one surface, cutting down on clean-up).
- This is optional, but if you’d like to quick-pickle the carrot ribbons (which I highly recommend!), heat ½ cup of water in a tea kettle or boil in a pot. Pour hot water into a heat-proof jar or bowl and add the vinegar, sugar, salt and ginger – whisk well until everything is dissolved. Add the carrots and toss everything well, making sure the carrots are submerged. Set aside and let them come to room temperature – about 30 minutes. You can also make these ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator – they are delicious on salads, sandwiches, on charcuterie boards, etc.
- To make the sauce, combine the mayo, sriracha, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk well. Adjust any heat or seasoning to your taste. Place the bowl onto the sheet pan with all other ingredients.
- To assemble your bowl, start with a bed of room temperature sushi rice, tuck in some nori on the side of the bowl and then add your toppings, as desired. Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds or furikake. Enjoy with chopsticks and feel free to hold a square of your nori and pile on some rice and toppings and eat with your hands 🙂
- Cooking for a larger crowd? Simply double your sushi rice recipe – works perfectly!
- Have rice left over and not sure what to do with it? Fried rice is always the easy answer. With minimal ingredients and time, you’ve got a perfect snack or side dish for another dinner.
- Want to use your instant pot instead of making the rice on the stovetop? Pressure cook for 5 minutes followed by a 10 minute natural release, and then followed by a quick release.
- Looking for other protein options? Sushi-grade fish and shrimp make great additions.
- Looking for another non-spicy sauce option for the kiddos? Try this: 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil, 3 tsp honey, ¼ cup mayo – whisk well and adjust any seasoning to your taste! A little lime zest would also be great in it.
- Vegan? Use vegan mayo for your sauce and consider tofu, pumfu, setan, or even some roasted king trumpet or maitake mushrooms.
Hello, I’m Natalie! I’m a professionally-trained chef and culinary instructor living in Ann Arbor. A career change, a trip through culinary school 20 years ago, and being a lifelong Julia Child enthusiast has led me to a career doing my very favorite thing: making food and cooking approachable to home cooks of all ages!
My passion for creating great food experiences and getting people excited about learning and having fun in the kitchen is always at the heart of what I do. I teach virtual adult and family cooking classes through Ann Arbor Rec & Ed, as well as my own private cooking classes and corporate events at NatalieMarbleCooks.com. You can find me on social media at @NatalieMarbleCooks and can sign up for my bi-weekly email newsletter here, where I share family-friendly recipes, tips & tricks, new class information, and hopefully a little inspiration!