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Barbecue Sushi: A culinary fusion with endless possibilities

Barbecue rib meat sushi with sweet rice & Luling City Market barbecue sauce in fried soybean curd pouches.
Barbecue rib meat sushi with sweet rice & Luling City Market barbecue sauce in fried soybean curd pouches. Special to The Star

One could say that Jason and Megan Day’s Burnt Finger Bacon Explosion is the ultimate Xtreme Sushi. In barbecue jargon it’s a “Fattie,” or a “Barbecue Sausage,” per the Burnt Finger website. Whatever we call it, it’s delicious!

Last year’s sensation, BBQ Bacon Sushi — a bacon wrap, seasoned ground beef with cheese in the center, rolled with a bamboo sushi mat — yields fantastic meat-centric bacon cheeseburger rolls.

How about some barbecue sushi that is more in step with today’s healthy lifestyles and cross-cultural fusion? The possibilities are endless!

First let’s get past a major sushi stereotype. Bait shop-sourced “Redneck Sushi” is standard humor in barbecue circles. Minnows and mud bugs may make it as sushi ingredients, but I’ll pass on crawlers and stink bait.

Thanks to Yuki Matsuse, a friend from Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, I recently got hands-on familiarity with two styles of sushi that busted my raw fish sushi misconception. Yuki taught Gretchen and me and two of our grandchildren, Henry and Emma, how to make sushi sans raw fish.

Of course I was inspired to make barbecue sushi.

As with all labor-intensive cooking, traditional sushi requires time, specific tools, organization and attention to details. It is worth it.

Recognizing, however, that most cooks these days won’t make the necessary effort to prepare traditional sushi, there’s an easy way to make casual barbecue sushi.

Besides ease, casual barbecue sushi’s small portions of meat and other ingredients make a healthy culinary combo.

Casual sushi is barbecue-friendly. Instead of seaweed sheets, ingredients are stuffed in fried soybean curd pouches. Short-grain white rice seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar and salt is an essential ingredient in traditional sushi, but not for barbecue sushi. You can substitute unseasoned short- or long-grain white or brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, beans, edamame, hummus, coleslaw, hash browns, pimento cheese, shredded cheese or other ingredients.

Tinker with this recipe: You’ll be ready to take off in infinite directions.

Casual Barbecue Rib Meat Sushi

Makes 16 starters or 2 to 4 entrees

8 fried square soybean curd pouches (also called aburaage; available frozen at Asian markets or supermarkets, but call ahead to assure availability)

Water for boiling

For Fried Soybean Curd Marinade:

1 3/4 cups water

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 cups mirin or dry sherry

1 cup brown sugar

For Stuffing:

2 cups cooked long-grain brown rice

1 cup barbecue pork sparerib meat or beef short rib meat

1/4 to 1/3 cup barbecue sauce for light garnish

Place each pouch on a cutting board and roll flat, making it easy to open.

Cut each pouch in half and carefully open.

Boil soybean curd pouches in water for 5 minutes to remove excess oil. Transfer to colander to drain. When pouches are cool, gently squeeze out excess water between palm of hands.

Heat marinade until sugar is dissolved. Add pouches and simmer for 15 minutes, turning occasionally to soak them evenly. Turn off the heat and remove to a deep dish to cool.

Stuff each pouch with 3 to 4 tablespoons of rice, indent with your thumb to make a nest for the meat. Add small portion of rib meat; lightly garnish with barbecue sauce. Serve immediately.

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