Last Updated on June 3, 2023
Here is another fun idea for you to enjoy rice! Japanese Curry Flavored Tofu Rice Roll is a bite size rice roll. It’s not sushi because the rice isn’t seasoned with vinegar. The concept is somewhat similar to the Japanese rice balls, Onigiri, but it’s in a form of rolls. It’s vegan and GF.
Rice Roll vs Sushi
First of all, I really want to be clear that this is NOT sushi. Why? The answer is simple. Because the rice isn’t seasoned with vinegar mixture like sumeshi which is the rice for making sushi.
It’s the same for Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Roll) which also has a similar appearance of sushi roll but it’s not sushi. The reason is the same.
This recipe is a rice roll made with curry flavored tofu scramble. Despite of the use of curry powder, it actually tastes very much Japanese. So, what does it taste like?
Curry Flavored Tofu Scramble
I’m pretty sure if you’re looking at this post, chances are you’ve made some sort of vegan tofu scramble in the past. Curry flavored tofu scramble is the same idea as what you’re probably familiar with. The only difference is that it has an essence of Japanese taste. To me, it’s similar to Iri-dofu which is a Japanese-style sweet & savory tofu scramble.
This curry one has curry powder, tamari and sugar that makes a sweet & savory taste. The curry flavored tofu combined with Japanese rice, somehow taste very nostalgic for me. It reminds me of some kind of home cooked meal I’ve eaten growing up. It’s savory and sweet with a hint of aromatic spices from curry powder—it has a little bit of everything that we all love!
The particular wrapper that we used is called VEGHEET from Umami Insider (NOT sponsored!) It’s all natural, vegan and gluten-free! It was my first time using it and honestly, I didn’t have much expectations…well, that changed as soon as I tasted it!
One package contains 4-5 sheets (depending on the flavor) made with real vegetable and agar-agar. Yes, only two ingredients! The one I used for this recipe is the kabocha (Japanese pumpkin squash) flavor.
The color is yellow-brown and each sheet is translucent and paper thin. The size is the same as regular sushi nori sheet so it’s easy to use as an alternative to making sushi rolls but not limited to. You can also wrap fresh veggies to make something similar to summer rolls using Vietnamese rice paper summer rolls. It’s the same concept. You damp the dry sheet a little bit then it’s ready to roll!
It has pros & cons. The pros is that unlike the Vietnamese rice paper, it’s easier to handle when rolling because it doesn’t get sticky. Another pro is that compared to rice paper, it has a significantly bold flavor, the flavor of real veggies! Let’s be real. No offence, but rice paper tastes like nothing.
The kabocha one that I used tastes and smells just like real kabocha. I can tell that the color is not just for the purpose of adding color to the sheet. You can really taste the sweetness of the kabocha pumpkin!
The cons is that it has less flexibility than the rice paper and and it may rip if it’s too wet. But once you make a roll, it retains the shape pretty well. I notice that the less stickiness makes it a bit difficult to truly seal the end but workable!
For that reason, if you are intended to make onigiri (Japanese rice balls) or onigirazu (another form of Japanese rice balls), the sheet won’t work (how do I know? because I tired and failed.)
A Little More About VEGHEET
I wanted to know more about the VEGHEET so I did a bit further research. It’s made by the Japan-based company called ISLE. I hopped on the company’s website (in Japanese.)
In summery, VEGHEET is a sustainable product that has won many awards. It’s made from “ugly” or “non-standard sized” veggies that was going to be discarded which could have caused massive unnecessary food waste. According to the company, it’s also dense in nutrients and has a long shelf life (2 years before opening) so they’re working on promoting VEGHEET as an emergency food supply for natural disasters.
You can enjoy VEGHEET in a couple of different ways. It’s edible without cooking it so you can eat as-is which I did for this recipe. If you want to make healthy spring rolls you can cook it with a little to no oil. I actually made tofu spring rolls and they were delicious! You can also dissolve in water which makes it gelatinous consistency due to the agar-agar.
The website states that soon it will be available globally on Amazon. Meanwhile, if you live in US or Canada, check it out Umami Insider!
Alternative for VEGHEET
You can still enjoy this recipe even if you can’t get VEGHEET. Try making this recipe with regular sushi nori like this one. Actually, that will make more like onigiri! You know how tasty it is when the Japanese rice is wrapped with nori seaweed 🙂
Either way, it’s a great vegan & potentially GF recipe (disclaimer: please check the label of each ingredient at your own risk to make sure that it’s truly suitable for GF.)
Here is the list of ingredients to make this awesome rice roll!
- Uncooked White Japanese rice (starchy short grain rice)
Curry Flavored Tofu
- Extra Firm Tofu
- Neutral Oil
- Yellow Onion
- Curry Powder
- Tamari (or soy sauce)
- Frozen Green Peas (or any other green veggies of your choice)
- 4 VEGHEET (kabocha flavor) or Regular Sushi Nori
Dipping Sauce Suggestions
- Vegan Mayo & Ketchup Sauce
- Tamari (GF) or Smoked Soy Sauce (non-GF)
The Tips and Recipe Notes
Japanese White Rice
Being Japanese, rice is a staple in my kitchen. Because of that I’m always looking for better choice of rice. Compare to 20 years ago, it’s a lot easier to find high-quality rice here in the U.S.. For the love of rice, I’ve tried multiple brands but my recommendations keep changing from time to time.
My latest favorites are Konotori-Hagukumu-Okome (I bought them online from MTC kitchen, NY. Another favorite is Organic Akita Komachi from the rice factory NY. No matter what brand you use, I’d highly recommend using real Japanese rice (preferably white rice.)
How to Cook Japanese White Rice
There are two ways to make Japanese rice properly. One is to use a Japanese rice cooker such as Zojisushi brand (I have one, too) which is the easiest and you’ll never go wrong with it. The other way is to cook on stovetop using cast-iron pot or donabe (clay pot.)
I made this recipe using my beloved Staub pot (made for cooking rice) but you can do the same by using your rice cooker or other cookware. Whether using rice cooker or pot, there are a few key points that you want to consider in order to make a good Japanese rice:
- Rinse the rice until water becomes clear
- Let the rinsed rice soaked in water for 30 minutes (to make the rice puffy/fluffy)—optional but highly recommended
- Use a specific ratio of rice to water (see the recipe)
- If cooking on stovetop, learn to master the process/timing using your own cookware (see the recipe for how I make mine on stovetop)
By default, I use 1 1/2 US cups (300 g) uncooked rice which is equivalent to 2 rice measuring cups that comes with the rice cooker. In the end, the cooked rice is perfect for making 4 rice rolls for this recipe.
Season the Rice
Just by adding some salt is all you need to season the rice. I used 1 tsp for the entire cooked rice. You can adjust to your taste but remember that the curry flavor tofu also has seasonings so don’t over salt the rice!
I used extra firm tofu to make the curry flavored tofu scramble. You need to press the tofu by adding some heavy weights (no special equipment required) and leave it for 15-20 minutes. Then it’s ready to use for cooking. If you want to get rid of more excess water, you can squeeze it with hands right before crumbling and adding to the pan.
The one I used is organic curry powder from Simply Organic. You can use any regular curry powder of your choice for this recipe. In my opinion, other authentic curry spice blend (such as garam masala) are not recommended because the flavor won’t work well with tamari or soy sauce.
Green Pea Substitution
In this recipe, the use of green peas are mainly for the color. Therefore, feel free to substitute with any green veggies you like such as kale, spinach, or green bell pepper.
You can find the main ingredient, VEGHEET All-Natural GF Wraps (Kabocha), from Umami Insider. The one I used for this recipe is kabocha flavor which works perfectly with the natural sweetness of the rice as well as the curry flavor.
Alternative to VEGHEET
No VEGHEET? No worries. Just use regular sushi nori like this one. Nori actually gives a great flavor that works well with the rice!
How to Roll
You can think of the same way as making sushi rolls. The best way to do this is using a bamboo sushi rolling mat so you can make it tight. Here is how to use VEGHEET and roll.
On the back side of the package, it says to water spray a sheet to soften (otherwise it will tear.) I didn’t have a spray bottle so I simply used a pastry brush to wet (damp) the sheet with water and it worked just fine. Be careful not to wet it too much to avoid breakage.
Then place the seasoned rice and curry flavored tofu scramble just like making sushi rolls. Roll it tight (like making sushi) and leave the last 0.75 inch (2 cm) at the top. Right before rolling all the way, apply a dap of water at the top end then roll it to seal.
Leave it with the sealed side down and set aside. Then cut each roll into a bite size pieces (6 pieces.)
There are two suggestions as the dipping sauce for this recipe. One is the Vegan Mayo & Ketchup combo. The method is very simple. Use equal part of each ingredient (I used 2 tbsp each) and mix until well blended.
The other one is even easier because there’s no mixing required which is Tamari or Smoked Soy Sauce. For GF, definitely go for tamari. If you are non-GF, I highly recommend using smoked soy sauce. As the name suggests, smoke soy sauce gives not only umami-rich saltiness but also adds a nice smoky layer to the dish!
Check out other delicious vegan rolls and similar rice dishes!
Japanese Curry Flavored Tofu Rice Roll
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked white Japanese rice starchy short grain rice
- 1 2/3 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
Curry Flavored Tofu
- 1 block extra firm tofu (drained weight: 14 oz / 400 g)
- 1/2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1/4 onion)
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 3 tsp tamari (or soy sauce)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas *
- 4 VEGHEET (kabocha flavor) or regular sushi nori
Dipping Sauce Suggestions
- Vegan mayo & ketchup sauce (mix 2 tbsp each)
- Tamari or smoked soy sauce
- Place an unpacked and drained tofu block on a shallow bowl or plate. Put heavy weight (such as large canned item) on top. Let it stand for 15-20 minutes to drain excess water.
- Meanwhile, prepare rice. Place rice in a large bowl. Pour running water to cover the rice. Wash it with your hand moving in circular motion then quickly discard the water. Repeat the process for 5 to 6 times until water becomes clear. Drain well. Transfer to a fine-mesh colander and let it stand for 30 minutes (optional but recommended.) Alternative way: Place rice in a fine mesh colander. Rinse under running water. Use a hand moving in circular motion to rinse thoroughly until water becomes clear. Drain well. Let it stand for 30 minutes.
- Transfer the rice to preferably a cast iron pot with a heavy lid or something similar. Pour water and season with salt. Make the rice leveled and cover with the lid. Rice cooker method: Add water and season with salt. Cook the rice according to the settings of your rice cooker. Skip to step 5.
- Cook over slightly higher than medium heat. In about 10-15 minutes, it starts almost boiling (you will see the bubbles.) At this point, open the lid and use a rice paddle to give a quick stir from the bottom. Make the rice leveled again then cover with the lid. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, turn off the heat. Keep the lid on and let it stand for 10 minutes.
- While rice is cooking, prepare the curry flavored tofu. Heat up a frying pan at medium high heat. Pour oil and cook yellow onion for 2-3 minutes.
- Next, add the drained tofu by crumbling with hands. Add curry powder, tamari (or soy sauce), sugar and salt. Stir well until well incorporated then reduce the heat to medium low.
- Add frozen peas and cook for another few minutes until peas are warm. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Transfer the cooked rice in a large bowl. Let it cool down for about 10 minutes.
- Assemble. Using VEGHEET: Place a sheet of VEGHEET on a cutting board. Spray water (or apply water with pastry brush) to damp the sheet. Let it stand for 30 seconds. Portion each ingredient into 4 equal parts. Place the cooked rice and the curry flavored tofu. Roll it tight (you can use a bamboo sushi rolling mat. Leave the last 0.75 inch (2 cm) at the top. Apply a dap of water at the top end then roll it to seal. Leave it with the sealed side down and set aside. Repeat the process. Using sushi nori: Place a nori sheet on a bamboo sushi rolling mat (or cutting board if you don’t have the mat.) Portion each ingredient into 4 equal parts. Place the cooked rice and the curry flavored tofu. Roll it tight. Leave it with the sealed side down and set aside. Repeat the process.
- Cut each roll into a bite size pieces (6 pieces.)
- Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice: the ketchup & mayo sauce (simply combine both ingredients until well blended) or tamari or smoked soy sauce.
- I used green peas mainly for the color. Feel free to substitute with other green color veggies like baby spinach or chopped green bell peppers.