I worked for a long time in sushi joints in Colorado. Believe it or not, because of Denver International Airport and rich-people ski towns, the landlocked state has a thriving sushi scene. I used to be a total purist about it. I'd never be caught dead ordering a California roll, let alone its cream cheese-laden cousin, the Philadelphia roll. Eventually, I realized that “fun” is just as important as “fine” when it comes to food, so I sought out to confront my Phillyphobia by crafting one of the finest bites of breakfast sushi you can imagine. Here, the breakfast classic of a bagel and lox transforms into breakfast sushi. A sliver of smoked salmon is anchored to caper-brined sushi rice with a dab of wasabi cream cheese. A dunk in homemade everything bagel seasoning seals the deal. You may be shocked at how good caper-brined sushi rice is. I use it for all my sushi needs, even outside of breakfast.
Everything Bagel Seasoning and Lox Nigiri Sushi
photo by alex tepper
For the Rice
For the wasabi cream cheese
For the everything bagel seasoning
For the nigiri
1 8-ounce package of lox
2 cups sushi rice
1/4 cup caper brine
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons wasabi powder
2 tablespoons water
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon pretzel salt
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried garlic flakes
How to Make It
Put the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it under cold running water, rubbing it together with your fingers, until the water runs clear. (It’s helpful to do this over a colored mixing bowl so you can see the water.) Allow the washed rice to drain in the strainer.
Mix the wasabi powder and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until dissolved. Add the cream cheese to the bowl and use a rubber spatula to fully incorporate the wasabi.
Combine all the ingredients for the everything bagel mix in a small pan. Toast until fragrant. Transfer to a small plate to cool.
Place the warm rice, wasabi cream cheese, seasoning mix, and sliced fish in close proximity. Wet your hands with water. With your dominant hand, grab less than a Ping Pong ball’s worth but a little more than a shooter marble’s worth of rice. Gently squeeze it so it’s about the length and diameter of a fat wine-bottle cork. Too much squeezing makes the rice like clay, too little and it falls apart. (Luckily the recipe above makes enough rice for you and your guests to practice.) Once the rice ball is formed, slide it a bit lower in your palm and hold onto it. Pick up a slice of fish with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant pointer finger (rice ball still clutched) swipe a little wasabi cream cheese onto the fish. Gently press the rice ball onto the cream cheese–smeared fish in your non-dominant hand. Flip the nigiri fish-side up in your non-dominant hand, and gently apply pressure with two fingers of your dominant hand and a cupping motion from your non-dominant hand. Rotate the fish and rice ball 180 degrees and repeat, so as to round off the corners and strongly adhere the fish to the rice ball.