Once, at a sushi restaurant, my friend bet me that I couldn’t collect all the wasabi on the table into one big ball then chew it ten times. If I succeeded, he promised to make me pistachio ice cream.
I won the bet. It took about five years before I could eat wasabi again.
When I thought back on this incident, I started mulling the idea of wasabi ice cream. As I mulled, the idea got more complicated until it finally came to fruition as sliced sushi ice cream. This recipe makes a sheet of rice-flavored ice cream rolled around lengths of wasabi, cucumber, and pickled ginger ice creams. The whole thing is coated in a brittle made with sesame and roasted seaweed. The dessert looks fun when it’s served in slices, and I can’t even begin to explain the unexpected delights of sesame-seaweed brittle. The ice cream itself isn't the creamiest of all possible ice creams, but I had to make sacrifices in texture in order to get just the right taste in a small batch. Trust me. The payoff is worth it.
Fair warning: When I tasted the first slice, I immediately spit it out. There was just too much cognitive dissonance to handle. The piece tasted like sushi in a truly bizarre way. Not a bad way—a bizarre way. After my tongue got used to the idea, I was able to completely enjoy my second and third and fourth slices.
Fair warning #2: This recipe takes a lot of time. Expect to start two days before you eat. Most of that time is hands-off, but every step in the shaping process requires re-freezing the ice cream. Those hours add up. It also takes a lot of bowls. And a lot of cling wrap. Seriously. A lot of cling wrap.
P.S. My friend still hasn’t paid up on the bet. —Adventurous Ice Creams
- Prep time 48 hours
- Makes 4 10-inch rolls
- Ice creams
uncooked white rice
sweetened condensed milk, divided
powdered milk, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons
seasoned rice vinegar
pickled sushi ginger
heavy cream, divided
food color--red, green, yellow
- Sesame seaweed brittle
toasted sesame seeds
tiny pieces torn from a sheet of roasted seaweed (sushi roll wrapper)
- Start by making the ice creams. Blitz uncooked rice in a food processor or spice grinder for a few seconds. You should end up with a mixture of textures, from relatively large chunks to cornmeal-size pieces.
- Put the rice in a small skillet or saucepan with 10 T water. Cover and bring to a boil. Don’t walk away—it can burn very quickly. When the water boils, remove from heat. Let sit, covered, until water is absorbed. Set aside.
- Separate the can of sweetened condensed milk into four bowls—one medium bowl and three smaller bowls. In the medium bowl, put 2/3 cup milk. Divide the rest of the milk evenly between the three small bowls—there will be slightly less than 1/4 cup in each.
- Stir 1 T powdered milk to the large portion of condensed milk in the medium bowl. Stir 1 tsp. powdered milk into each of the smaller three bowls of condensed milk.
- Add the cooked rice to the large portion of condensed milk in the medium bowl, along with seasoned rice vinegar. Stir to combine. Set aside.
- Chop ginger as finely as possible. Smash the ginger with the side of a knife to further break it down into a paste. You should end up with about 3 T of paste. Mix ginger paste into one of the small bowls of condensed milk, along with with vanilla and 2 drops red food color.
- Peel cucumber. Puree its flesh in a blender or food processor. Strain, and discard any large chunks. Mix 6 T of strained cucumber into the second small bowl of condensed milk, along with 1 drop green food color and 1 drop yellow food color.
- In the last small bowl of condensed milk, mix wasabi paste with 1 drop of green food color.
- Whip 1 cup of cream to stiff peaks. Fold this cream into the rice mixture until fully incorporated.
- Whip remaining 1 cup of cream to stiff picks. Divide the whipped cream evenly between the bowls of ginger, cucumber, and wasabi mixtures. Fold cream into each separate mixture until fully incorporated.
- Pack each ice cream into a separate freezer-safe container. Freeze for three to four hours until firm.
- Spread a sheet of cling wrap on a flat working surface. Scoop 1/4 of rice ice cream onto the cling wrap. Cover with another sheet of cling wrap. Using a rolling pin, work the ice cream into a flat rectangle about 6” x 10”. Return this sheet to the freezer to set. (You may want to set the ice cream on a baking sheet or cutting board to keep it flat.) Repeat with the other three quarters of rice ice cream, until you have four flat slabs individually wrapped in plastic.
- Spread another sheet of cling wrap onto your working surface. Arrange 1/4 of ginger ice cream in a line on the plastic. Fold the cling wrap over to cover the ice cream, lifting the edge parallel to your line. Roll the ice cream into a snake inside the plastic. Return the snake to the freezer to harden.
- Repeat this rolling process, making twelve snakes in all—four ginger snakes, four cucumber snakes, and four wasabi snakes—individually wrapped in plastic. Return the snakes to the freezer to harden.
- While the pieces chill, make the brittle. Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Arrange sesame seeds in a single layer on the prepared sheet. Sprinkle seaweed pieces over sesame seeds. Set aside.
- Bring 1/2 cup sugar, 2 T water, and 1 tsp. lemon juice to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring gently until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture turns amber brown. Test its readiness by dropping a small amount in a bowl of cold water. The syrup will cool immediately. If your sample drop is too hard to bend, it is done.
- Quickly pour syrup over sesame seeds and seaweed. Spread the syrup into a thin layer. Let cool at least one hour.
- Break the brittle into small pieces. (I like to put big chunks in a plastic bag then smash them with a rolling pin.) Set aside.
- When the ice cream has hardened, bring one slab of rice ice cream out of the freezer. Remove the plastic wrap from the top, but keep the plastic wrap underneath the slab. Carefully unwrap one ginger snake, laying it along the center of the slab. It’s fairly icy, as ice creams go, so it may break. No worries—just press the pieces back together. Carefully unwrap a cucumber snake and lay it next to the ginger snake, pressing the snakes gently together. Carefully unwrap a wasabi snake and lay it on top of the ginger and cucumber snakes, pressing all three together.
- Gently lift the plastic wrap (along the edge parallel to the 10″ side of the slab) to curl the rice ice cream over the snakes. Gently lift the opposite edge of the plastic to wrap the remainder of the rice ice cream over the snakes. Adjust the cling wrap and the ice cream until you can enclose the entire roll in plastic. Roll it into an even cylinder and press out any air pockets.
- If you’ve worked quickly, you’ll be able to coat the ice cream in brittle now. (If the ice cream has become too soft to work with, put it back in the freezer to re-harden before you attach the brittle pieces.) Spread 1/4 of the brittle pieces onto a flat surface. Unwrap the ice cream sushi. Roll it over the brittle, gently pressing to make sure the pieces attach. Re-wrap the roll in plastic wrap and return to freezer until ready to serve.
- Repeat this coating process with the remaining ice cream until you have four rolls waiting in the freezer.
- Just before serving, cut the ice cream into rolls. To ensure clean cuts, keep a glass of hot water nearby. Between each cut, dip the knife into the hot water. Serve immediately. (Alternately, you could cut the ice cream before serving. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with plastic. Cover and freeze until ready to serve.)