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When Sushi Became a Casserole and Other Reinventions

Sushi in the oven? Deep-fried rice? Western fusions deconstruct and rebuild this ancient dish.

By Kaitlin ShanksPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
When Sushi Became a Casserole and Other Reinventions
Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

Traditionalists enjoy sushi in one or two bites. Thinly sliced fish, shredded carrots and crisp nori are perfect for a spring brunch, but sometimes, you crave your favorite Asian flavors in a more filling meal.

2020 brought the rise of the sushi bake, but chefs have been developing heartier takes on the dish for decades. Burgers, casseroles, wraps--despite sounding like calorie bombs, these creations are light, fresh and earthy, presenting classic textures and aromas in a new form.

Sushi Bake

Layer your casserole dish, stick it in the oven and cut squares for everyone's plates: it sounds like you're making lasagna, but sushi bakes feature rice, diced fish and savory Japanese condiments.

If warm sushi sounds unappetizing at first, consider the ingredients. Steaming rice, roasted vegetables, grilled salmon--those are delicious, right? Hawai'ians and Japanese Americans had the same idea.

Sushi bakes are endlessly customizable, but most recipes start with a layer of rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt. Popular toppings include:

  • Avocado
  • Imitation crab meat
  • Masago (fish eggs)
  • Furikake (Japanese seasoning blend)
  • Cucumber
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Kewpie mayo

American mayo works in a pinch, but Japan's famous Kewpie mayo Teschews egg whites, using only yolks for a rich, savory creaminess.

Steak, garlic chips, mango and fried salmon skins are a few of the ingredients that appear in eclectic recipes. If you've ever wondered if fruit or red meat pairs well with sushi, now's your chance to experiment.

Sushi Burger

Japanese cuisine is famous for minimalism, but sushi burgers are just as indulgent as a loaded cheeseburger--and they're a little healthier, too. Cooks mold the rice into bun shapes, then pile them high with fresh ingredients and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Some prefer a sushi wrap with nori in place of a tortilla. In any case, you'll stuff your burger with smoked salmon, sliced avocado, spicy tuna, imitation crab meat, carrots or cucumber, then add dressing: Kewpie mayo, eel sauce or sweet chili sauce.

Sushi burritos follow a similar concept, but instead of a wrap or burger, they end up resembling giant sushi rolls. This is good news: you can make restaurant-style rolls without worrying about neatness.

By Luigi Pozzoli on Unsplash

Sushi Doughnut

Bite into one of these creations, and you'll find a generous filling of avocado, spicy tuna or imitation crab meat. This would ruin a sugar-coated pastry, but sushi doughnuts replace the dough with sticky rice and the icing with fresh fish and vegetables.

California restaurant Project Poke popularized sushi doughnuts in 2017. After pressing rice into doughnut molds, they cover the rice with sliced cucumbers and radishes, smoked salmon and tuna, then decorate the rest with crunchy sesame seeds.

The dish blew up on Instagram with thousands of variations, some branching out from the basic salmon and cucumber. Experimental ingredients include:

  • Spanish mackerel
  • Chinese yam
  • Shiso leaves
  • Sudachi juice
  • Sea urchin
  • Myoga
  • Japanese green onion
  • Ikura (salmon roe)

Sushi doughnuts leave tradition in the dust, but some people serve them with wasabi and sliced ginger as a tribute to their roots.

Sushi Pizza

Surprisingly, sushi pizza dates all the way back to the 90s. While other restaurants have taken credit, Nami's chef Kaoru Ohsada likely invented the dish. His original version offered a deep-fried rice patty, raw salmon, spicy mayonnaise, soy sauce, wasabi, diced onions and fish eggs dyed black with squid ink.

Today's varieties often start with a cooked rice patty on a nori "crust." You'll dress the rice with cold toppings, such as salmon, cucumbers, sliced avocado and scallions, then cut the pizza into slices like you're serving a pepperoni-and-cheese pie.

Like the doughnuts, sushi pizza dominated Instagram. At first glance, diced tuna, cucumber chunks and edamame smothered in dressing are nearly indistinguishable from a slice covered in cheese, sausage and peppers. Some even use sushi rolls as a stuffed crust. Evidently, every type of pizza is a celebration of decadence.

Sushi Salad

Shredded carrots, green onions, edamame, fresh tuna: sushi components are a natural choice for a deconstructed salad. Healthy eaters toss fish and veggies with rice and leafy greens, then add dressing made from miso paste, soy sauce, wasabi powder, ginger juice or sesame oil.

This salad is nutritious and easy to make. If you're a meal planner who's tired of grilled chicken and rice, load your bento box with rice, sushi ingredients and Asian dressing.

Want to keep it simple? Layer diced salmon and chopped avocados over a bed of rice. Now you have protein, vegetables and grains in one meal.

Have you tried any of these interpretations? How would you deconstruct sushi if you were a professional chef? Sound off in the comments.


About the Creator

Kaitlin Shanks

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Comments (2)

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  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    I love sushi! No idea how I would deconstruct it🎃♥️

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