Sushi appetizers at neighborhood sushi restaurants might soon be served in brightly colored wrappers made from familiar vegetables and fruits, offering a fresh alternative to the traditional seaweed. And the trendy, American-style sushi delicacies -- sized, shaped and sliced like typical sushi but made with innovative ingredients -- also may be enhanced by the new wraps.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at Albany, Calif., and research partner Origami Foods, LLC, based in Pleasanton, Calif., are experimenting with dozens of delicious, attractively colored wraps. For example, they've tested a bright-orange carrot-based wrap to encircle a cucumber, garlic and rice filling, and a deep-red tomato and basil wrap to hold a spicy tuna and rice filling.
The wraps, which can be produced as soft, pliable sheets, are made with infrared drying and other leading-edge technologies, according to Tara H. McHugh, who heads the ARS Processed Foods Research Unit at Albany.
McHugh, Albany colleague Carl W. Olsen -- both food technologists -- and Origami Foods owner and president Matthew de Bord have applied for a product patent. The tasty, imaginative wraps rank as the newest in the line of fruit- and vegetable-based edibles from McHugh's laboratory.
Other combinations include:
— A Thai curry sushi made of potatoes, carrots, green onions and coconut milk, curry-seasoned and held snugly by the carrot wrap.
— A rice and diced roast pork sushi rolled in a pineapple-apricot-ginger wrap.
— A bite-sized quiche sushi of carrots, onions and asparagus in a broccoli wrap.
— A perfect mini-dessert of rich, creamy cheesecake in a blueberry or strawberry wrap.
All the wraps are at least 75 percent vegetable or fruit, plus other wholesome natural ingredients. Besides being fun to eat, the sushi-style delicacies are ideal for weight-conscious Americans trying to control portion size.
The team is fine-tuning wrap formulations, experimenting with different combinations of wrap flavorings and fillings. Two well-known sushi chefs, among other food industry experts, are helping.