One of our responsibilities as aunts (and uncles) is to encourage our young family members to try new things, branch out, and take a few risks.
Depending on your brother or sister's own eating style, work responsibilities or the state of meals in their house, your nieces and nephews could be adventurous eaters or not so much.
Let me start off by saying that as a life long vegetarian, I myself do not eat proper "sushi" - fish and rice. I'm very happy to go to sushi restaurants though, and eat agadashi tofu, inari sushi, avocado maki, cucumber maki, seaweed salad and other tasty things. So I certainly wouldn't try to get finicky kids or kids who don't like fish, to eat raw fish sushi.
Instead, I start off gently, letting them experiment with fun vegetarian options, potato katsu, fried pieces of chicken in sushi, etc. (Also, I probably would never choose to serve raw, uncooked fish to any child without asking their parents' permission first).
The main thing my nieces and nephews have trouble overcoming is their aversion to the dark green, weird tasting, weird textured nori (the seaweed wrapped around sushi rolls). So first, I start them off with something colorful, inoffensively flavored and mild: Soy wraps! In Japan, they refer to them as "mamenori."
These suckers aren't inexpensive - they're more than $1 per sheet, and you only get 5 sheets in the bag. They can be a little tricky to work with - tearing easily, for example. I tend to practice on the boring "original" beige wrapper so if I mess up, I'm not out one of the more exciting colors.
The sheets come in Turmeric Yellow, Spinach Green, Sesame (the seeds make the wrapper look a little weird looking, but I successfully got a 5 year old to eat one last night!), Paprika Orange, Original (a boring beige), and, gasp, Pink!
Oh my, I can think of so many uses for pink soy wrappers. I might have to suck it up and buy them in a bulk pack oof 20.
The Yamamotoyama website offers some intriguing recipes for how to use their soy wrappers - but I feel like many of the recipes are too sophisticated for most kids' palates. Surf and Turf cone with tarragon sauce? Probably not. Pomegranate Green Tea and Chicken wrap? Mayyybe..
Ingredients I would try to tempt the kids with would include carrots, avocado, cucumber, asparagus, scrambled egg, tofu, and perhaps mushrooms (depending on the kids). And of course, rice - the more colorful, the better.
This picture gets my creative juices flowing (and my salivary glands too!) It gives me so many ideas of pretty (and tasty) wraps to make for the kids.
Here's a really sneaky way to get kids (especially girls) to try sushi: Pink Rice Avocado rolls using a colored soy wrapper. So pretty!
Perhaps if you are able to persuade your little ones to adventurously try several bites of your creations, you might reward them with these clever Hostess Snack Cakes sushi desserts created by the inventive blogger over at Not Martha.
Of course, you'll have a lot more luck getting kids invested in the concept if you throw caution to the wind and let them help you make the sushi. They'll have grubby, sticky little hands and faces, and your kitchen will get trashed, but they're more likely to try things they've helped prepare. You can always indulge in a big glass of sake or two after the kids' parents pick them up, and leisurely clean up your disaster-zone kitchen.
This fruit sushi recipe involves a tortilla, not nori or soy wraps. It might be a very gentle way to introduce the concept to reluctant kids with limited food preferences who mostly eat mac and cheese and chicken nuggets and the like.
Once I've found a few brave souls who are willing to try our homemade sushi, they can graduate to a special lunch with Auntie at one of our local conveyor belt sushi places: Blu C Sushi. Is it the best quality sushi? No, of course not. But the novelty of the conveyor belt is great for distracting hyper kiddos, you get to eat literally within seconds of sitting down, and you can teach kids a lot about the food whizzing by on the belt.
It's best to set ground rules ahead of time - we all wash our hands first before taking food, don't take the lid off anything you don't want to buy, once you've touched a plate you have to take it off the belt and we have to pay for it, etc. You'll want to set limits on the amounts of dessert plates they're allowed to take, too - there are all sorts of tempting fried things, cookies, brownies, mochi ice cream, etc.
If you don't succeed in converting your nieces and nephews to loving sushi the first couple times, don't be disheartened. Wait a year and try again. It took my uncle Harley dragging me to sushi eight or nine times before I started liking those unusual-to-me Japanese flavors - and I was a grown adult! If you keep trying and finally your young charges learn an appreciation for sushi, you're giving them a lifelong gift.
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