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5 from 2 votes
vegan sushi eggplant eel
Vegan Dragon Roll Sushi with Eggplant "Eel"
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins

This is the complete recipe for a veganized version of the popular dragon sushi roll. This recipe substitutes baked eggplant for the eel, and features cucumber, avocado, and a vegan spicy mayo sauce.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese, sushi, vegan
Servings: 4
Author: Michael Monson
For the sushi rice:
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked sushi or short grain white rice
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons seasoned sushi rice vinegar
For the eel sauce:
  • ¼ cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • ¼ cup vegan white sugar
  • ¼ cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Splash dark soy sauce (optional)
For the eggplant "eel":
  • Eel sauce
  • 2 Chinese or Japanese eggplants - you really want the long lighter purple ones.
For the spicy mayo:
  • ¼ cup vegan mayo
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • Salt and sugar to taste
For the rolls:
  • About 3 cups cooked sushi rice
  • 4 Toasted nori sheets
  • Eggplant eel
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cucumber
  • Spicy mayo
  • Eel sauce
  • Sesame seeds
  • Vegan smelt roe (sold as Red Seaweed Pearls from Ikea)
  • toasted panko crumbs
To make the sushi rice:
  1. I use a rice cooker. For me, that produces the best and most consistent results. If you don’t have a rice cooker, just follow the package directions on whatever sushi rice you purchased. I also prefer to use pre-seasoned sushi vinegar. It’s a time saver, and I find that most brands have a pretty solid salty/sweet/acidy balance. When the rice is cooked, just toss it with a few tablespoons to a quarter cup of sushi vinegar. Allow the rice to then cool, covered, until it is cool enough to handle it with your hands.

To make the eel sauce:
  1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients small saucepan or pot. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, stirring often to make sure that the sugar and cornstarch dissolve, and that nothing is burning to the bottom of the pan. Keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t boil over. Allow the sauce to lightly simmer and thicken for about 5 minutes, or until viscous and slightly reduced. Remove from the pan, and place into a sealable container.
To make the eggplant "eel":
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit (for convection).
  2. Using a mandolin (and cutting gloves!), slice the eggplant into long ¼ inch thick slices. If you don’t have a mandolin, or are scared by using the mandolin to cut long strips, you can just cut the eggplant into ¼ thick discs. The final “eel” diamond shape effect will be lost, but the flavor and texture will still be there.
  3. Place the strips of eggplant onto an parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, and then brush on a thin layer of the eel sauce. The sauce is very sugary, and can burn if it puddles on the mat. Take care not to get too much sauce on the mat, or things could get slightly smokey.
  4. Cook the eggplant strips at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip over, apply eel sauce to the other side, and then return to the oven for about 10 more minutes. There will be some unavoidable caramelization of the sauce, and it may even seem burnt. It’s ok.
  5. Remove the eggplant from the oven, and allow it to cool slightly before you start to cut it.

To make the spicy mayo:
  1. I find a ratio of about ¼ cup vegan mayo to a tablespoon of sriracha does the trick. I have been making my own aquafaba mayo using The Minimalist Baker’s recipe. It’s a slightly sweet mayo, which mimics the Kewpie mayo that many sushi restaurants use. If you’re just using store bought vegan mayo, I would add just a pinch of sugar to the mix. You don’t want it to read as “sweet”, but it helps to balance out the flavors.

To assemble the vegan dragon roll:
  1. Peel and seed your cucumber, and slice it into long, thin strips. Cut your avocado in half. You should be able to get about two rolls per avocado. Skin one half of the avocado, and then slice it into very thin slices. These thin slices will be used for the top of the rolls. Don’t worry about cutting up the other half, you’ll just be spooning the meat out to be used in the center of the rolls.
  2. Lay a sheet of nori, shiny side down, onto your sushi mat. If you are using a bamboo mat, make sure you cover it with plastic wrap. Wet your hands, and then apply about ½ to ¾ cup of rice to the rough side of the nori. Break up any clumps of rice with your hands and distribute the rice evenly around the nori. It’s ok if there are a few places you can still see the nori. You don’t want to over-do it with the rice, and you definitely don’t want to pack it down. Lightly sprinkle the rice with toasted sesame seeds.

  3. Flip your rice covered nori over so you can see the shiny side. Place a row of avocado and a row of cucumber about an inch or two from the edge closest to you. If you would like to add other veggies, or even baked tofu, you definitely can. Begin to roll by folding the end closest to your body over the filling, tucking it under the filling, and then continuing to roll, using the mat to guide and slightly press down. When the roll is complete, drape the mat over the roll, and press down from the top and sides, to help secure and even out the roll.

  4. Slice your eggplant eel into long oblong diamond shaped pieces. Add a layer of the thin avocado slices to the top of the roll, followed by a layer of the eggplant eel. Drape the mat over the covered roll, and then press from the top and sides again to secure the toppings. Note: The eggplant is a bit tough to cut onces it’s on top of the roll. Plan the placement of your eggplant so that when you slice your rolls, you don’t have to slice through the eggplant.
  5. Cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, cleaning your knife with a damp towel in between cuts. Plate the roll in a slightly arched shape. Finish off with a generous drizzle or brush of the eel sauce, a drizzle of the spicy may, a few dollops of vegan roe, and a sprinkling of crispy panko crumbs.

For the caterpillar roll variation:
  1. After you add your avocado and cucumber, place a few strips of the eggplant eel inside. This is a good place to use any slices that are torn or imperfect that you don't want on the outside of your roll. Roll it up, and top with thin slices of avocado. Top with a generous brushing of eel sauce, a drizzle of the spicy mayo, a few dollops of vegan roe, and a sprinkling of crispy panko crumbs.