Recipe: "Thin Roll with Cucumber (Kappa-maki)", "Master Recipe for Sushi Rice", and "Sushi Vinegar Dressing" from "The Sushi Experience" by Hiroko Shimbo.
Rating: Great when made with a Japanese cucumber which is crisp and refreshing tasting.
Status: Made once.
Usually, I think cucumber rolls are nice but a bit boring. I made these on a whim; I think I liked the idea that cucumbers are easy to buy and store well for a few days, so this type of sushi can be easily made without shopping for seafood the day you want to make sushi. Today, I went to a Japanese grocery store to day to stock up on some Japanese sushi ingredients, so I bought some Japanese cucumbers. The Japanese cucumbers are crisp, crunchy, and refreshing and the cucumber flavor is lighter than Western cucumbers. They make this taste surprisingly good, much better than I expected or have had before, and they are what made this dish go from standard to great.
Hiroko Shimbo says in "The Japanese Kitchen" that "unlike American slicing cucumbers, which have smooth skins, Japanese cucumbers have tiny bumps all over. Their skins are deep green, thicker than the skins of American cucumbers, and very crispy to the bite. Inside, Japanese cucumbers have fewer seeds than the American type, so seeding is unnecessary."
Nori actually comes in different thicknesses and crispiness. Thin or medium-thin crisp nori is best for thin rolls (nori-maki) and hand rolls (temaki). Nori that is more sturdy is appropriate for futo-maki (thick rolls) or onigiri (rice balls).
Hiroko Shimbo suggests using very crispy nori from Ariake Bay or Tokyo Bay for thin rolls, if you can find it. Many seaweed packages don't specify their origin, if this is the case, then pick the package which has a picture of sushi which is the closest to the kind you want to make. My package is very crispy nori from Ariake Bay and had a very helpful crispness indicator and suggestions for the type of sushi it is best for. She also suggests buying small packages with 10 sheets, instead of the large packages since once the package is opened, its flavor and texture quickly deteriorates.
Additional Notes: It was suggested to cut each roll into six pieces, but I liked the size I got from cutting my rolls into 8 pieces better this time.
I used 1/2 a cucumber to make 3 rolls, but my first roll came out badly (I over stuffed it with rice, and the seaweed wouldn't wrap around the rice). To cut the cucumber, you cut off 1/4 inch off of each end, and then cut it in half. Then cut each piece in half lengthwise, and cut each of those pieces into 3 sticks. One cucumber should give you 12 sticks; each kappa-maki rolls needs only 2 sticks of cucumber.
Ingredients to make 3 rolls: 1/2 cucumber, 1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds, 1 1/2 pieces of very crispy nori, and sushi rice. I serve wasabi on the side, instead of putting it in the roll, since my wasabi is extremely spicy.