Spicy tu-NO Roll

Spicy tu-NO Roll

By Frank Sicilia

As a conservationist and a sushi chef, I strive to make the most environmentally conscious decisions in choosing ingredients for my sushi rolls. The Spicy tu-NO Roll is something that took me a good deal of time to develop and perfect. This roll was created in honor of the plight of the bluefin tuna whose populations have been decimated, in large part, by the insatiable appetite of the sushi industry. I felt the need to create a roll that simulates the ingredients of a spicy tuna roll, but have it be completely vegetarian/vegan. The main ingredients, tuna, is substituted with strips of steamed beet. If steamed properly, the beet's texture and look very closely resembles that of a prime cut of tuna. All of the remaining ingredients have been chosen based on a mix of textures and tastes. Unlike many sushi rolls that I've eaten in the past, this is a roll that stands on it's own. Eating it with soy sauce does somewhat of a disservice to this roll, as the soy sauce will mask it's complex and delicate tastes.
There are several intended consequences that I hope will come from creating this roll. One is to bring awareness of the dire situation of the Atlantic bluefin tuna. I aim to convince people that are unwilling to try an alternative to their favorite spicy tuna roll, that they can have a roll that looks, feels, and tastes similar to a spicy tuna roll, but as it's completely vegetarian, it doesn't affect the tuna populations at all. I admit, it's a hard sell at first... until the moment a customer takes their first bite of a Spicy tu-NO Roll and you see the inevitable smile appear on their face and their eyes light up like they've just have a revelation. It's a look that I see over and over again, much to my delight.
As with all of the sushi I create, I focus primarily on using organic and all natural ingredients, supporting local, organic farms and local, small-operation fishermen who practice sustainable harvest methods.


SPICY TU-NO ROLL: Organic, vegetarian/vegan alternative to the spicy tuna roll

Makes 4 rolls, with 8 pieces per roll



4 half-sheets sushi nori
2 cups cooks and seasoned sushi rice
2 avocados, peeled and cut lengthwise
1 beet peeled and cut into rectangular 1/2 by 2 inch blocks
1 red bell pepper sliced into 1/4 inch strips
1 carrot thinly sliced with vegetable peeler
4 green onions, chopped
1 shallot thinly sliced and fried in batter
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp. spicy sauce

Spicy sauce:
4 tbsp. veganaise
1 tbsp. siracha

vegan tempura batter:
1 cup cold water
1 cup rice flour
2 pinches salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. egg or egg powder
1/4 cup extra water for thinning

sushi rice:
2 cups sushi rice
3 cups water
4 oz. rice wine vinegar



  • Place water and rice in rice cooker and let rice steam 12-15 minutes until tender. Remove from pot and place in bowl. Mix carefully with rice vinegar and let cool.
  • Place beets in steamer and steam for approximately 12-15 minutes until soft texture is achieved, but not overcooked.
  • Place half sheet of nori on bamboo sushi rolling mat. Moisten hands, take 1/2 cup rice and cover entire side of nori, spreading gently. Turn nori over so rice is facing down on the bamboo mat.
  • Spoon spicy sauce onto the center of the roll, lengthwise.
  • Lay out the rest of the vegetables in the center of the nori over the spicy sauce.
  • Roll the sushi roll away from you, using fingers to hold the ingredients in place as you form the roll. Roll the sushi forward, making sure the edge of the nori closest to you is overlapped by the edge of the nori farthest from you, sealing the roll.
  • With the bamboo roller on top of the roll, using both hands, carefully press the roll into a square shape.
  • Remove the bamboo roller.
  • Place 1/2 avocado, flat side down, on the cutting board. Cut very thin slices at 45 degree angle all the way across.
  • Gently spread the avocado on the cutting board, carefully place layered avocado on top of the roll.
  • Place the bamboo roller over the roll and squeeze down firmly, ensuring the avocado sticks to the roll.
  • Lift the roller and cut the roll with a sharp knife. Cut out 8 pieces.
  • Place on plate with colorful garnishes and top with spicy sauce and sesame seeds.

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